Departmental Policy Reviews

Ceisteanna (389)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

389. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the national architect policy; and if a draft of the policy will be brought to the housing committee before agreeing same. [26764/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is currently drafting a new National Policy on Architecture which will support long–term planning strategies and will assist in addressing key issues including societal well-being, climate change and urban regeneration. The adaptation of existing as well as the design of new buildings will, of course, be critical to meet the targets set by the Climate Action Plan 2019. 

My Department, supported by a steering committee including officials from the Office of Public Works, the Department of Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive, the City and County Architects Association, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Arts Council, the Heritage Council, the schools of architecture and the Irish Architecture Foundation, recently undertook a public consultation process allowing the opportunity for all communities, stakeholders and citizens to have their say on the proposed new Policy. 

The consultation phase considered the main ways in which architecture and our built environment affect society, our health and well-being and our ability to prosper. These include climate adaptation and mitigation and sustainable development, the benefits for everyone of obtaining high quality in the built environment, the protection and reuse of our built heritage, ways we can demonstrate built environment leadership and the need to foster education about our built environment. We invited online and written submissions, and social media engagement, alongside a series of workshops and meetings, including virtual workshops in line with public health restrictions, to allow wide-ranging involvement in the drafting of the new policy, as well as consideration of the effect of Covid-19 on our built environment. 

It is my intention that a new National Policy on Architecture will play an integral part in implementing our vision for the future, providing policy actions that will encourage best quality in researching, understanding, managing, enhancing and reusing our existing built environment assets as well as delivering sustainable new places and spaces. 

The Policy will be informed by the feedback from the consultation phase, with over 150 submissions received, as well as by a review of the previous policy by the Office of Public Works and our involvement in a European Commission working group on high quality architecture and built environment. The analysis of the consultation phase is currently underway with a report due in the next month or so which will help shape a draft policy. 

I will, of course, be happy to consult with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage at the earliest opportunity in relation to the Policy.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (390)

Johnny Guirke

Ceist:

390. Deputy Johnny Guirke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number on local authority housing waiting lists in each of the years 2010 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in counties Meath and Westmeath in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26783/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area is provided in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA). The SSHA has been conducted on an annual basis since 2016, prior to which it was carried out once every three years.

The most recent summary, conducted in June 2019, shows that 68,693 households were assessed as qualified for and being in need of social housing support. This represents a decrease of 3,165 households or 4.4% on the last assessment in June 2018. Since 2016, the numbers have decreased from 91,600 to 68,693, a reduction of 25%. 

Below is the link to the summary report for 2019 which includes breakdowns by each local authority, across a range of categories.  

SSHA Report 2019

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/sha_summary_2019_dec_2019_web_1.pdf  

It is important to note that only the results of the 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 summaries are directly comparable with each other. These summaries were carried out using a standardised methodology as specified by the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011. Previous summaries were not carried out under the current standardised assessment regime for social housing support which came into effect on 1 April 2011.

As there were no assessments carried out in 2010, 2012, 2014 or 2015 my Department does not have data for those years.

Below are links to the Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) for 2011 and SSHA reports for 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018  which contain data broken down for the 31 local authority areas, including the number on the housing waiting lists in Meath and Westmeath. 

HNA 2011

https://www.housingagency.ie/sites/default/files/53.%20Housing-Needs-Assessment-Report_web.pdf  

SSHA Report 2013

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad%2C34857%2Cen.pdf  

SSHA Report 2016

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/summary_of_social_housing_assessments_2016.pdf  

SSHA Report 2017

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/sha_summary_2017.pdf  

SSHA Report 2018

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/summary_of_social_housing_assessments_2018_-_key_findings.pdf  

While the SSHA is normally conducted in or around June, given the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on local authorities and nature of the work involved in conducting the SSHA, the SSHA for 2020 was deferred to allow local authorities to continue to focus their resources on immediate priorities. However, recognising that the SSHA is a very important part of the evidence base for housing policy at both local authority and national level, I have directed local authorities to carry out the SSHA 2020 in November 2020.

Water Services

Ceisteanna (391)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

391. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if funding under the multi-annual developer provided water services infrastructure resolution programme will be provided in respect of a housing development (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26839/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 21 September, I announced allocations under the new multi-annual capital investment programme for the progressive resolution of housing estates with “developer provided water services infrastructure”, to enable the taking in charge of these estates. The announcement followed an independent Expert Panel review of all valid bids. The Panel’s recommendations are based on criteria set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting bid proposals. The housing estate referred to by the Deputy was included in the bids submitted by the relevant local authority.

The focus of the first multi-annual programme is on estates in towns and villages where the resolution is to connect their water services to the public networks. The programme will also support a number of pilot projects where connection is not feasible in the immediate future. These pilot projects, together with a major study to be under taken by Irish Water, will inform future policy on resolving sub-standard developer provided infrastructure with sustainable solutions in such areas. This, the first funding cycle of the new multi-annual programme, runs to 2021.

The local authorities were informed concerning details of the outcome of the bids process in a circular which included a copy of the Expert Panel report and were asked to place a copy of the report on their website. The circular is available on my Department's website at the link under:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/circular-ldpi01-2020-approval-projects-residential-estates-under-developer

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (392)

Francis Noel Duffy

Ceist:

392. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the measures he plans to take to protect local authority development plans in view of the fact that the strategic housing developments system, which will continue in place until the end of 2021, is continuing to grant planning applications that do not align with current development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26844/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (the 2016 Act) introduced new streamlined arrangements to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHDs) of 100 housing units or more, or student accommodation or shared accommodation developments of 200 bed spaces or more, to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála (the Board) for determination.

Under the 2016 Act, planning applications for SHDs may only be made to the Board where the proposed development is on land zoned for such use.  The zoning of lands for particular uses is a reserved function of the elected members of a planning authority, in accordance with the statutory development plan procedures under the parent Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the 2000 Act).

Section 9(6) of the 2016 Act empowers the Board, where it deems it appropriate, to grant planning permission for a SHD that materially contravenes the development plan or local area plan relating to the area concerned and, in this regard, requires the Board to set out the main reasons and considerations for doing this in its decision.  However, the Board shall not grant permission where the proposed development would materially contravene the zoning objective of the relevant plan.  I have no proposals to amend the existing SHD provisions in this regard.

The SHD provisions in the 2016 Act are in line with the pre-existing provisions in the 2000 Act, relating to the determination of planning applications generally, which provide that, where a proposed development would materially contravene the development plan, a planning authority may decide to grant permission, provided that the requirements set out in section 34(6) of the 2000 Act are complied with.  In cases on appeal, where a planning authority has refused to grant permission for a proposed development because it would materially contravene the local development plan, and in certain cases where planning applications are made directly to the Board, the Board may grant planning permission for a proposed development that materially contravenes the development plan in specified circumstances only.

In this regard, it should be noted that, in making determinations on planning appeals or applications, the Board is required to have regard to not only the local development plan, but also to planning guidelines issued by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government under section 28 of the 2000 Act, as well as to other relevant Government policies and objectives. Development plans are generally drafted and adopted in accordance with national policies and objectives, as well as statutory planning guidelines which are current at the time of their adoption.

However, there can be instances where new Government policies and objectives are adopted after the adoption of a development plan - for example, by way of "specific planning policy requirements" included in new or updated planning guidelines issued by the Minister - thereby superseding specific local policies in the development plan, and which consequently the Board is required to have regard to in the determination of planning appeals or applications before it. This can result in the Board attaching greater significance to new and updated Government policy than to a development plan objective that may have been adopted a number of years ago, thereby resulting in the contravening of specific aspects of the development plan by the Board in making its determination on a planning appeal or application.

Housing Policy

Ceisteanna (393, 403)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

393. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the review into co-living; the person or body leading the review; the number of meetings that have taken place of the review group; the terms of reference of the review; and when it will conclude its work. [26868/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

403. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of the promised review of co-living; the membership of the review group; the terms of reference of same; and the expected date for completion and the methodology and consultation being undertaken by the review group. [27209/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 393 and 403 together.

Section 5.0 of Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities, published by my Department in 2018, addresses the ‘Build-to-Rent’ and ‘Shared Accommodation’ sectors.

Paragraphs 5.13 to 5.24 of the Sustainable Urban Housing document, including Specific Planning Policy Requirement (SPPR) 9, provide guidance and policy in respect of ‘Shared Accommodation Developments’, also known as ‘Co-living’. 

I have been clear in my intention to review the provisions for Co-living set out in the Sustainable Urban Housing guidelines.  It is also the case that paragraph 5.24 of the guidance commits my Department to monitor the emerging shared accommodation sector, with a view to issuing further technical updates of the Sustainable Urban Housing guidelines document, given the relatively new nature of this form of accommodation.

Accordingly, I have instructed senior officials in my Department to review Paragraphs 5.13 to 5.24 of the Sustainable Urban Housing document.  This work includes analysis of development proposals for co-living that have come forward since publication of the guidelines and in particular, how such proposals compare to apartment development standards generally.  My officials will report within the coming weeks and this input will assist in informing my ultimate decision in respect of the matter.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme

Ceisteanna (394)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

394. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed in relation to their eligibility for the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26883/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

An application under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme was received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question. With respect to 36 raised bog natural heritage area sites, the qualifying criteria for the scheme are that:

- The applicant must have had a legal interest (ownership or a turbary right (right to cut turf)) in one of these sites on 25 May 2010 and must have had the right to cut and remove turf from the property on that date;

- The applicant must have been cutting turf on the land in question during the five year period up to 14 January 2014;

- The turf resource on the site has not been exhausted; and

- No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property. 

I am advised that the applicant was informed in 2018 that he did not fulfil the qualifying criteria of the scheme. This applicant was provided with the opportunity to seek a Departmental review of this decision and did so. The decision was upheld and the applicant was advised that he could appeal the decision to the Peatlands Council.

My Department has been advised that, to date, no appeal has been received by the Peatlands Council.  The applicant may lodge an appeal by contacting the Peatlands Council at peatlandscouncil@chg.gov.ie or by post to Secretary, Peatlands Council, PO Box 12070, Dublin 2.

Housing Policy

Ceisteanna (395)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

395. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if consideration will be given to facilitating dialogue between local authorities in Dublin regarding the possibility of an intercounty housing transfer system for tenants wishing to seek a housing transfer from one Dublin local authority to another; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26931/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The oversight and management of housing waiting lists, including the allocation and transfer of tenancies, is a matter for the relevant local authority in accordance with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, and associated regulations.

Section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, requires all local authorities, as a reserved function, to make an allocation scheme determining the order of priority to be accorded in the allocation of dwellings to households qualified for social housing support and to households approved for a transfer, the allocation of which would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the households.

Generally, a household may apply for support to one local authority only, which may be the authority for the area in which the household normally resides or with which it has a local connection, or that the authority agrees, at its discretion, to assess the household for support.

However, in Dublin, a household meeting either the residence or local connection condition may specify up to three areas of choice for receipt of support in the areas of all local authorities in the county and city concerned and, if qualified, will be entered on the housing waiting list of each of those local authorities. Accordingly, under existing arrangements, a household that applies, for example, to Dublin City Council can, if qualified for support and should they choose to do so, be entered on the waiting list of three of the four local authorities in Dublin city and county. 

All four Dublin authorities have provisions in their allocation schemes for inter authority/mutual transfers for sitting tenants whereby the authority is prepared to accommodate applications for inter authority/mutual transfers provided certain criteria are met. All four Dublin authorities also make provision in their allocation schemes for households wishing to move to a home more suitable to their household needs. However, decisions on all applications are entirely a matter for the local authority concerned. 

Recipients of the Housing Assistance Payment can also move between local authorities in Dublin. Guidelines on inter-authority movement were introduced in 2017 to allow for local authorities to facilitate movement of HAP households from one local authority area to another in cases where a HAP tenant, currently on a local authority waiting list, wishes to access rented accommodation with HAP support in another local authority area.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (396)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

396. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the current available supply of social and affordable housing; the number available in each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26959/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department does not hold information on the availability of social housing on a local authority by local authority basis. However, in terms of the delivery of additional social housing my Department publishes comprehensive statistics on a quarterly basis on all additional social housing delivery activity under programmes supported by Exchequer Funding. This is published on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link:

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

This data provides a breakdown of social housing delivery across a range of mechanisms.

More information on total social housing stock levels is available in the Annual Performance Reports published by NOAC, the National Oversight and Audit Committee. 

Regarding affordable housing, €310 million has already been allocated under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF) to fund infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable homes on local authority lands.  With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated.  To date, Serviced Sites Funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes. 

Details of all SSF projects that have received approval in principle to date can be found at the following links:

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-gives-the-go-ahead-for-ten-local-authority-sites-for-affordable-housing-under-the-serviced-sites-fund/, and

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

It is anticipated that a further SSF call to local authorities will be made later this year.

With regard to the future, this Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that affordable, quality housing solutions are available to everyone in Irish society, and this is reflected in the Programme for Government "Our Shared Future".  The Programme commits to putting affordability at the heart of the housing system through the progression of State-backed affordable housing.

I will outline further plans in terms of affordable housing later in the Autumn, taking account of the progress made under the SSF, as well as the development of the Affordable Purchase scheme and Cost Rental scheme.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (397)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

397. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the measures he will introduce to prevent approved housing bodies and the credit unions with which they hold accounts from sharing directors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26974/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The oversight of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) is currently conducted through the Voluntary Regulation Code (the Code), "Building for the Future, A Voluntary Regulation Code for Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland" which is underpinned by three standards: Financial, Governance and Performance. The Code is overseen by an interim Regulatory Committee supported by a Regulation Office which is based in the Housing Agency.

The Regulation Office’s Governance Standard (Principle 4) sets out that “No individual should be elected or appointed as a director or trustee of an organisation, or retain such a position, where he or she has any direct material interest of significance in relation to the income or any other benefit derived from any commercial contract or other arrangements for the construction of houses for the approved housing body, or in the supply of goods and services to the approved housing body”.

Under the voluntary framework, the use of the word “should” represents recommended best practice. Therefore, this does not represent a requirement of the Standard and is not based on a legal, statutory, or regulatory requirement.

In December 2019, the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019 was signed in to law. This Act provides for, amongst other things, the establishment of a Regulator to oversee the effective governance, financial management and performance of voluntary and co-operative housing bodies. Section 37 of the Act provides for the drafting and adoption of standards for AHBs.

The Regulator will publish draft standards on its website and must consider any representations made by any persons before finalising these standards and submitting them for Ministerial approval. The standards will cover issues of governance, financial management and reporting, property and asset management and tenancy management.

The Act sets out that the governance standard may, in particular, provide for the membership and governance structure of an AHB, the procedures for decision making, the management of conflicts of interest and a code of conduct for the board of an AHB.

Separately, credit union policies are a matter for the Minister for Finance. His Department has advised that Part IV of the Credit Union Act 1997 (as amended) details the persons who are ineligible to be a director of a credit union.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (398)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

398. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of sheltered housing complexes that have been supported or supplied by his Department over the past ten years which provided accommodation for the elderly and those with a mental or physical disability by year in tabular form; his plans for the future of these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27001/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The main funding scheme under which my Department supports the delivery of sheltered type housing, is the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS). Under this scheme, capital funding of up to 100% of project costs may be advanced by local authorities to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to provide housing for specific categories of housing need, with a particular focus on housing for older people, people with a disability, and people who are homeless. 

The number of houses delivered under CAS each year in each local authority area, can be seen on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.

In addition to CAS, housing for older people or for people with disabilities may be delivered by local authorities by way of their own housing stock, through the development of new mobility friendly housing by the local authorities or by AHBs using my Department's Capital Advance Leasing Facilities scheme, statistics for which are also available on the same website.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (399)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

399. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if funding will be made available to make it viable to upgrade existing uninhabitable housing stock nationally for affordable accommodation purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27032/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is focused on ensuring that additional social, affordable and private housing is delivered and that existing housing stock is utilised to its fullest extent including a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland.

 In terms of affordable housing for purchase, the statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase in the State is Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, which was commenced in June 2018. 

Under my Department's Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), €310 million has been allocated to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable new homes for purchase or rent in those areas where local authorities have identified and affordability challenge and the viability to deliver homes and below open market purchase prices.  Funding under the SSF is available for new-build homes on local authority land.  With a maximum of €50,000 funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated.  To date, Serviced Sites funding of €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes. 

 In relation to the rental sector, the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to improving security and affordability for renters. To achieve that, we are developing a Cost Rental model for delivery of housing that creates affordability for tenants and a sustainable model for construction and management of homes. Cost Rental is housing where the rents charged cover the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only. Cost Rental is not intended to overlap with or replace traditional social housing for low-income households.  

Work to outline the consistent and sustainable delivery of Cost Rental at scale is underway through an inter-departmental multi-agency Cost Rental Working Group, and is being assisted by an external research project sponsored by the European Investment Bank (EIB) on behalf of my Department. Furthermore, three initial Cost Rental projects are already being progressed, including 50 units at Enniskerry Road in Stepaside, that is currently under construction, while sites at Emmet Road, Inchicore (the former St Michael’s Estate) and Shanganagh Castle, Shankill, are at the design phase.  

In terms of affordable housing more generally, I will outline my detailed plans in the near future, taking account of progress to date under the SSF, experience from these Cost Rental pilots, a number of other measures, as well as the input of key delivery partners.

Ministerial Advisers

Ceisteanna (400)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

400. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a schedule of advisers and special advisers appointed and or recruited by him since his appointment will be provided; the roles and responsibilities attributed to each; and the salary for each appointee in tabular form. [27056/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The recently published guidance issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Ministerial Appointments allow for 2 Special Advisers to be appointed to each Minister by Government, in accordance with overall staffing limits. 

At this stage, no Special Advisers have been formally appointed to my Department by the Government. I have, however, assigned Ciara Shaughnessy to work with me as Special Adviser and it is anticipated that she will be formally appointed by the Government in the coming weeks.  Ms. Shaughnessy's responsibilities are primarily in the area of press and media.   

Any further Special Adviser appointments in my Department will be made in accordance with the guidance set out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform must be notified of the rate of salary to be paid in all cases for Special Advisers, which will be published on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Local Authority Housing

Ceisteanna (401)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

401. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the grant assistance available to assist long-term local authority residents who purchase a new property. [27070/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under the Serviced Sites Fund (SSF), €310 million funding has been made available to local authorities to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of more affordable new homes on local authority lands.  With a maximum of €50,000 infrastructure funding available per home, at least 6,200 more affordable homes, to buy or rent, can be facilitated.  The funding support provided allows local authorities that have identified affordability challenges in their area to make homes available on their lands at more competitive prices.  The funding support provided remains as a percentage equity charge against the property which will be retained by the local authority until it has been fully repaid.

To date, of the total Serviced Sites funding available, €127 million has been approved in principle in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, which will assist in the delivery of almost 3,200 affordable homes.  

There are a further two supports that may be of assistance to local authority tenants to purchase their own home.

The Help to Buy (HTB) incentive is a scheme for first-time property buyers which may help with the deposit needed to buy or build a new house or apartment.  Full details are available at https://www.revenue.ie/en/property/help-to-buy-incentive/index.aspx.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage for first time buyers, available from local authorities, which can be used to purchase a new or second-hand property or for self-build. A Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides up to 90% of the market value of the property. Full details are available at www.rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie/.

Planning Issues

Question No. 403 answered with Question No. 393.

Ceisteanna (402)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

402. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a further extension of time for planning permissions will be considered for housing developments due to the impact of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27083/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In light of the impacts of the Covid-19 emergency, the Government, on 29 March 2020, made an Order under section 251A of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, which resulted in the extension of time for a range of specified or appropriate periods and timelines in the Planning Acts and associated planning regulations. Further orders were signed on 16 April 2020 and 9 May 2020, the last of which expired on 23 May 2020. The three Orders had the combined effect of extending the relevant planning periods and timelines, including the duration of planning permissions, by an aggregate of 56 days/8 weeks during the time period in which they had effect.

On 15 September 2020, the Government published its latest response to managing Covid-19 - Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for living with Covid-19.  While I don't envisage any further actions will be required for the planning system in the context of this framework at this time, I continue to keep this matter under review.

Question No. 403 answered with Question No. 393.

Tenancy Protection Scheme

Ceisteanna (404)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

404. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will consider re-introducing the eviction ban in the event that the public health advice is that persons do not leave their own county and limit their movement; if he will provide the legal advice received on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27210/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

With effect from 1 August 2020, the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020 protects tenants facing rent arrears from any rent increase or tenancy termination prior to 11 January 2021, subject to the tenant making an appropriate declaration.

Currently I have no plans to prohibit tenancy termination, in any other circumstance, in Dublin on foot of its rating at level 3 under the National Framework for Living with Covid-19. Under level 3, people are advised to stay in their county (or other defined geographical area) apart from for work, education and other essential purposes, if appropriate. Any further measures will be informed by the extent to which restrictions of movement introduced on public health grounds are of such a nature as to inhibit the normal functioning of the rental market.

Legal advices obtained from the Office of the Attorney General are confidential and will not be published.

Vacant Sites

Ceisteanna (405)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

405. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide a breakdown of staff allocated to applying the vacant sites levy by local authority. [27212/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The specific information requested by the Deputy is not available in my Department.

The staffing arrangements, including recruitment and the detailed role and functions of the posts within a local authority, are a matter for the individual local authorities. In accordance with section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, the Chief Executive of the local authority makes such staffing and organisational arrangements as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible. This includes the allocation of resources to planning functions within the local authority as required.

Grant Payments

Ceisteanna (406)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

406. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the allocation for the disabled person’s grants in each of the years 2013 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and the amount that each local authority drew down in each of those years from their allocation for the purposes of the grants. [27215/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department provides funding on an annual basis under the Disabled Persons Grants (DPGs) scheme to local authorities for adaptations and extensions to the existing social housing stock to meet the needs of local authority tenants.  The scheme applies to works that are necessary to address the needs of older people or people with a disability.  This may involve minor adaptations such as stair-lifts, grab -rails, showers, wet-rooms, ramps etc. It also provides funding for more major adaptations such as extensions, for example in the case of overcrowding, or the installation of a downstairs bedroom or bathroom. 

My Department provides 90% funding towards the cost of the eligible works per property with the remaining 10% being provided by the local authorities. The local authority can carry out works up to a maximum level of €75,000 per property without the prior approval of my Department. Applications in excess of this amount can be submitted to my Department and will be considered for funding on a case by case basis. It is a matter for each local authority to prioritise the works required under the scheme in the context of available funding and in line with the terms of the DPG scheme.

Details of allocations and funding drawdown by local authority between 2013 and 2019 are available at the following link, while details to date in 2020 are outlined in the table below:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/disabled-persons-grants-and-improvement-works-lieu-schemes

 

Local Authority

2020 Preliminary Departmental Allocation - Exchequer Funding

  (90%)

Local Authority funding

(10%)

COMBINED TOTAL

Expenditure to Date in 2020*

Carlow County Council

€164,427.64

€18,270

€182,697.38

 €133,422.39

Cavan County Council

€195,559.02

€21,729

€217,287.80

 €0

Clare County Council

€239,605.58

€26,623

€266,228.42

 €0

Cork City Council

€1,300,000.00

€144,444

€1,444,444.44

 €450,603.54

Cork County Council

€739,731.61

€82,192

€821,924.01

 €81,544

Donegal County Council

€461,669.63

€51,297

€512,966.26

 €257,595

Dublin City Council

€2,106,408.00

€234,045

€2,340,453.33

 €0

Dun Laoghaire/

  Rathdown County Council

€409,461.00

€45,496

€454,956.67

 €107,465.17

Fingal County Council

€502,246.60

€55,805

€558,051.78

 €0

Galway City Council

€309,033.09

€34,337

€343,370.10

 €35,118

Galway County Council

€246,593.59

€27,399

€273,992.88

 €0

Kerry County Council

€405,286.18

€45,032

€450,317.98

 €233,788

Kildare County Council

€393,913.11

€43,768

€437,681.23

 €0

Kilkenny County Council

€228,810.79

€25,423

€254,234.21

 €0

Laois County Council

€206,835.71

€22,982

€229,817.46

 €0

Leitrim County Council

€120,535.26

€13,393

€133,928.07

 €0

Limerick City and County Council

€828,750.00

€92,083

€920,833.33

 €37,708

Longford County Council

€187,752.08

€20,861

€208,613.42

 €0

Louth County Council

€367,408.07

€40,823

€408,231.19

 €0

Mayo County Council

€200,667.26

€22,296

€222,963.62

 €0

Meath County Council

€260,363.00

€28,929

€289,292.22

 €0

Monaghan County Council

€148,524.61

€16,503

€165,027.34

 €0

Offaly County Council

€174,740.51

€19,416

€194,156.12

 €96,156

Roscommon County Council

€142,810.07

€15,868

€158,677.86

 €2,619

Sligo County Council

€226,349.80

€25,150

€251,499.78

 €209,586

South Dublin County Council

€918,134.64

€102,015

€1,020,149.60

 €0

Tipperary County Council

€481,331.55

€53,481

€534,812.83

 €69,207

Waterford City and County Council

€491,162.51

€54,574

€545,736.12

 €800

Westmeath County Council

€183,896.80

€20,433

€204,329.78

 €182,651

Wexford County Council

€432,947.81

€48,105

€481,053.12

 €0

Wicklow County Council

€425,044.48

€47,227

€472,271.64

 €0

TOTALS

€13,500,000.00

€1,500,000.00

€15,000,000.00

 €1,898,263

*Expenditure excludes funding for accrued commitments from 2019 (€2m) and self-funding from Local Property Tax in the case of relevant local authorities.

The overall 2020 funding provision (€18m) has increased in line with previous years. Preliminary allocations totaling €13.5m have issued to local authorities. Local authorities were advised earlier in the year to continue with works up to a maximum value of 65% of their 2019 allocation, in order to ensure there were no delays in rolling out the programme and completing priority works. It is open to local authorities to apply for additional funding for contractual commitments not covered by their preliminary 2020 allocation and a contingency fund of €2.5m has been set aside for this purpose. My Department monitors the allocation and funding drawdown to ensure efficient use of resources including re-assignment of any potential underspend in individual local authorities.

The significant increase in funding for the scheme year on year against 2013 levels is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of older people and people with a disability.

Housing Issues

Ceisteanna (407)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

407. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on the problems being experienced in the taking-in-charge of developer-led developments (details supplied). [27298/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In December 2018 my Department published the National Taking in Charge Initiative Report, which considered the issues associated with residential estates that are not taken-in-charge, including a subset of estates that depend on stand-alone developer provided water infrastructure for the provision of their water services. This report included a recommendation to introduce a multi-annual capital investment programme to progressively resolve these estates in a sustainable manner over time. This programme was launched last year.

Following consideration by an Expert Panel, I announced funding allocations on 21 September for the progressive resolution of housing estates dependent on developer provided water services, which will also enable the taking in charge of these estates. This, the first funding cycle of the new multi-annual programme runs to 2021.

The focus of the first programme is on estates in towns and villages where the resolution is to connect their water services to the public networks. The programme will also support a number of pilot projects where connection is not feasible in the immediate future. These pilot projects, together with a major study to be under taken by Irish Water, will inform future policy on resolving sub-standard developer provided infrastructure with sustainable solutions in such areas.

The local authorities were informed concerning details of the outcome of the bids process in a circular which included a copy of the Expert Panel report. The report, in addition to addressing the issues encountered by local authorities in these estates, provides guidance for local authorities in preparing bids for future programmes.

The circular is available on my Department's website at the link under:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/circular-ldpi01-2020-approval-projects-residential-estates-under-developer

Fire Service

Ceisteanna (408)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

408. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will establish a national fire brigade service to allow for economies of scale in purchasing uniformity of training and management and intercounty transfers of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27337/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As Minister with policy and legislative responsibility for fire safety and the provision of fire services by local authorities, my primary concern, as set out in the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, is that local authority provided fire services are meeting their statutory obligations in respect of provision of fire services and fire safety.

Fire services are provided in Ireland by local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003.

The most recent review of fire services in Ireland resulted in the publication of “Keeping Communities Safe - A Framework for Fire Safety in Ireland” (KCS) in 2013. This was the report on the outcome of a wide-ranging review of fire services in Ireland which was undertaken in 2011/2012, and was endorsed as national policy in early 2013. It concluded that local authorities were best positioned to continue to provide fire services in Ireland.

However, fire authorities do cooperate with each other as and when required and on a regular basis on a number of matters. For example, they are enabled by the Fire Services Act, 1981 and 2003 to assist each other and provide support on a ‘mutual-assistance’ basis, and this is the expected norm for fire services. The Chief Fire Officer for the area where a large scale incident is located will typically engage neighbouring services when required, on the basis of agreed pre-planned arrangements.

At national level, a National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) was created within my Department in 2009 to give central direction and leadership for the fire and emergency management services. The 2009 arrangements put in place a management structure at central government level with a clear mandate and visibility to develop national policy and to drive consistent achievement of quality fire services by local authorities. Under the system, responsibility for the day-to-day operation of fire services remains with the local authorities. However, the National Directorate’s mandate includes developing national policies and national standards, and supporting and overseeing their implementation at local level.

The NDFEM administers the Fire Services Central Training Programme supplements training arranged by fire authorities. It represents an efficient service delivery model by offering train-the-trainer courses on a regional basis, therefore ensuring consistency of approach throughout the service.

The KCS policy document sets out the overall approach, the methods and the techniques to achieve the objective of keeping communities safe from fire and, for the first time, set out national norms, standards and targets against which local authorities can benchmark their fire services.

Over the course of 2014/2015, the National Directorate’s Management Board's External Validation Group (EVG) visited every fire service in the country as part of a new external validation process arising from implementation of KCS. In April 2016, the Management Board published the first EVG Report titled “Local Delivery - National Consistency”. The report concluded that current arrangements, as outlined, are working effectively to meet the challenges involved in trying to protect communities from fire and other emergencies. A copy of this report is available on my Department's website at the following link:

http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-services-ireland-local-delivery-national. 

Unfortunately, the current COVID situation has understandably delayed a new (second) EVG process. I now expect it to begin next year. It will focus once again on the delivery standards of our fire services. I understand that part of the review includes an assessment of how the structure of the service impacts on delivery.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (409)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

409. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of requests on hand from his Department and from State agencies under the aegis of his Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department uses workforce planning processes to identify the critical resource needs required to deliver its business goals.  Workforce planning is a key tool in enabling my Department to forecast its current and future staffing needs (subject to the limits of the annual estimates process, the usual budgetary constraints and approvals by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). The Workforce Plan aims to ensure a long-term, proactive and strategic plan by which my Department aims to have the right people, with the right levels of talent and skills, in each location and Division, doing the right thing at the right time. 

My Department operates in a rapidly changing environment and its structure must facilitate the flexibility to deploy resources to priority work, as the need arises.  As business needs arise, staff are allocated to support organisational priorities within my Department.  Overall staffing levels within Divisions are continually monitored and staff transfer in and out of Divisions as the workload demands.  Where skills gaps have been are identified, the HR Division reviews these requests on a quarterly basis and approves staff assignments on the basis of business cases made by Divisions.  One such iteration of this process has just been completed, so no requests are currently on hand for consideration from within the Department. 

The question of staffing levels in the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter, generally delegated to the Agencies themselves and I will ask the Agencies to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.  However, I am aware of one request for additional staff resources, related to Brexit.