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Local Authorities

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Ceisteanna (351)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

351. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on the fact that to date since the regulations were introduced Galway City Council has only received five planning applications for change of use for short-term letting and that staff appointed by his Department to deal with short-term letting have not yet been appointed as following a recruitment process, no suitable candidates were available to take up a two-year contract; and his further views on whether there is a need for greater resources in this area to support stretched staff in council planning departments. [29850/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 4 June 2019, my Department wrote to planning authorities with Rent Pressure Zone designations (RPZs) - to which the short-term letting regulations apply - seeking estimated resource funding requirements for the implementation and enforcement of the new short-term letting (STL) provisions, to cover the period to the end of 2021. My Department wrote again to planning authorities on 2 July and 26 September of that year seeking new or revised estimates following the designation of additional RPZs in certain parts of the country, which extended the application of the STL provisions to these areas. Details of the resource requirements sought primarily relate to the recruitment of additional enforcement staff, but also include, inter alia, associated legal, IT and other administrative costs.

Since then, further communication has taken place between my Department and all relevant planning authorities seeking clarification and refinement of the resourcing requests, as well as in relation to the practical implementation of the STL provisions. 

For 2020, €2.5m was made available by my Department to support planning authorities in the implementation and enforcement of the STL legislation. Similarly, a further €2.5m has been made available in respect of 2021.

In December 2019, Galway City Council, further to its resourcing funding request, received approval to incur expenditure on dedicated STL implementation and enforcement resources, and funding of up to €241,500 in 2020 and €262,500 in 2021 was made available from my Department to cover this expenditure.

I understand that Galway City Council commenced a recruitment process for dedicated STL staff however, no suitable candidates were found to take up the contract on offer. The Covid-19 pandemic then put a hold on new recruitment. While staffing is a matter for individual local authorities, the Council has advised that the recruitment process for dedicated STL staff is currently being reviewed and my Department is awaiting an update on its progress in this regard. Currently, the planning enforcement section in the Council is responsible for the enforcement of the STL legislation.

To date, Galway City Council has drawn down a small amount of the funding approved for the enforcement of STL, to cover legal costs. In this connection, the outstanding funding for 2021 remains available to the Council should it wish to submit any further claims, including in respect of any dedicated enforcement staff recruited.

Regarding the five planning applications for change of use received, it should be noted that change of use planning is just one way to ensure compliance with the STL legislation. Properties can also be registered with the Council in accordance with the STL Regulations, can cease STL activity altogether and can be returned to the long-term rental market. In this connection, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the number of properties being made available for short-term letting purposes, with many - at least temporarily - now operating in the long-term letting sector.  

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