To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of the new rural housing guidelines; when they will be published; if they will be open for public consultation when they are published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The working group comprises senior officials from the Planning Division of my Department and senior officials from the Planning Divisions of local authorities, nominated by the local government sector. The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission on the matter and subject to the completion of the ongoing deliberations by the working group, I will be in a position to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines that take account of the relevant ECJ judgment.
I have no plans to hold a public consultation on the matter, due to the extensive discussions and engagement with planning authorities and other relevant stakeholders as part of the Working Group’s review of the 2005 Guidelines.
Number of units to be provided through the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme by county in 2019
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of units to be provided through the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme by county in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
A range of housing options are necessary to ensure a supply of accommodation to meet different types of social housing need. Harnessing the off-balance sheet potential of private investment in social housing is an important objective of the Government and the social housing targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland over the period to 2021 reflect the ambition in that regard.
My Department has introduced the Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme in order to target newly built or yet to be built houses and apartments for long term leasing, and to target property developers and investors who are in a position to deliver housing at a reasonable scale in order to supplement delivery under Pillar 2 of Rebuilding Ireland.
The first call for proposals for the Enhanced Leasing Scheme was open from January to April 2018 and a total of 33 submissions were received. The second call for proposals closed on 25th October 2018 and a total of 22 submissions were received. Information with respect to the number and location of the dwellings proposed for leasing under the Scheme will be available once the respective housing authorities have signed Agreements for Lease arising from the completion of the due diligence process. This due diligence process is currently underway and it is expected that the first Agreements to Lease will be signed later in Q2 2019.
My Department and the Housing Agency continue to work with local authorities and proposers in respect of the Enhanced Leasing Scheme, and the leasing schemes generally, in order to ensure maximum delivery of high quality leased properties to meet the needs of households on social housing waiting lists. To this end, the Enhanced Long-Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme is in full operation and accepting proposals, complementing the range of other delivery mechanisms operated by my Department.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the estimated first and full year cost of setting up directly elected mayors; the estimated annual cost thereafter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
On 24 May 2019, the electors of the administrative areas of Cork City, Limerick City and County and Waterford City and County Councils will be asked to vote in a plebiscite on the Government’s proposal for a Mayor with executive functions to be directly elected by the people.
An independent Committee, chaired by Henry Abbott, a retired judge of the High Court, and including representatives from the three local authorities, my Department and the Local Government Management Agency, as well as an independent legal advisor, was established to facilitate and oversee the provision of impartial and factual information to the electorates in the three areas regarding the plebiscites. Following its consideration of the issue of the costs involved, the Committee has stated in its guide to voters that "while the full costs are unknown, the additional costs of the Government's proposals to establish an office of directly elected Mayor with executive functions could range from around €313,000 to €450,000".
The Local Government Act 2019 provides for the holding of the plebiscites. Under the Act, if the proposal is approved by a majority of voters in any of the three areas, the Minister will submit a report to the Oireachtas with legislative proposals for an election of a Mayor by the people of that area. The Oireachtas will then consider the legislation. If the law is passed, a direct election for Mayor with executive functions will take place for the area concerned.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the estimated first and full year cost of establishing town councils; the number of town councils that will be needed; the number of town councils that existed previously; the cost of running those town councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Local Government Reform Act 2014 saw the dissolution of 80 town councils and the Government has no plans for their reintroduction. Instead, the focus of current policy is to strengthen the operation of the 95 municipal districts established in 2014 and which cover the entirety of the State’s population as opposed to the 14% of the population previously represented by town councils.
A report by my Department entitled “Municipal Governance – Districts, Towns and Local Electoral Areas”, which is with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for consideration, contained an outline assessment of the potential cost of reintroducing town councils, along similar lines as previously existed, suggesting that the costs could be in the order of €28 million to €38 million per annum. Any detailed calculation of the full cost of reverting to town councils should also, in addition to the cost of re-establishing structures, take account of the potential financial impact of unwinding reforms introduced since 2014 in areas such as rate-setting.
It should be noted that engagement with local authority members, as represented by the Association of Irish Local Government, has focussed on strengthening the roles of municipal districts and achieving a clearer focus on towns within that context.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the budget for housing adaptation grants in 2019; the estimated cost of restoring it to 2008 levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I announced funding for 2019 of €71.25 million nationally for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, living in private houses. This is made up of €57 million exchequer funding, which is an increase of some 8% on the 2018 figure, with the balance of €14.25 million coming from local authority resources. Increasing funding to 2008 levels would cost an additional €0.95 million made up of €0.8 million from the Exchequer, with a further €0.15 million to be contributed by the local authorities.
I am conscious of the social benefit accruing from the schemes, particularly in terms of facilitating older people and people with a disability to remain living independently in their own homes. This is recognised in the Programme for Government and as a consequence, funding has been increasing year on year since 2014. The Government's Housing Options for Our Ageing Population - Policy Statement (Actions 4.1/4.2) indicates a commitment to increase the funding for the Scheme, review the Scheme guidelines and streamline the Scheme's operation. The Policy Statement is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/housingoptionsforanageingpopulationeng_web.pdf.
Over the course of each year, my Department works closely with all local authorities, to monitor spend and to achieve a full drawdown of the available funding. As the year progresses, any underspend is redistributed to those local authorities with high levels of grant activity who sought additional funding.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of rapid build units delivered in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Statistical information in relation to social housing delivery across all delivery streams, including rapid delivery, is published on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/node/6338.
Statistical information for the full year 2018 has been published and is available at: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-eoghan-murphy-publishes-breakdown-of-social-housing-delivery-in-2018-on-a-local-authority-basis/.
To the end of 2018, 423 homes had been delivered under the rapid delivery programme. 22 of these were delivered in 2016, increasing to 186 social homes delivered in 2017 and 215 in 2018. Since the programme's inception, some 40 projects have been added to the pipeline and will deliver over 1,100 homes out to 2021. Some 220 of these are expected to be delivered in 2019.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of housing projects approved under the urban regeneration and development fund and or the rural regeneration and development fund to date; the anticipated number of units; the number of affordable units; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Project Ireland 2040, as launched by the Government in February 2018, is the overarching policy and planning framework for the social, economic and cultural development of Ireland. It includes a detailed capital investment plan for the period 2018 to 2027, the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027, and the 20-year National Planning Framework (NPF).
The NPF sets a new long-term strategic planning and investment context for Ireland over the next 20 years, outlining at high-level a national vision for Ireland to 2040, which will establish the principles to manage future population and economic growth, catering for 1 million extra people, 600,000 extra jobs and over 500,000 extra homes. As part of this, the future housing needs of our growing population are of course among the key issues that will be addressed through the NPF.
The NDP established four new funds, with a combined allocation of €4 billion to 2027. The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), which is the fund operated by my Department, was launched last year and has an overall provision of €2 billion to 2027. €58m is available in 2019 to provide initial support to the 88 projects announced last November on foot of the first call for proposals. €550 million is included in the NDP to provide further support for these and other similar projects up to 2022.
The URDF was established to support applicant led projects that will contribute to regeneration and rejuvenation of Ireland’s five cities and other large towns, in line with the objectives of the NPF and the NDP. The aim is to achieve more compact, sustainable and mixed use development, with a view to ensuring that more parts of our urban areas can become attractive and vibrant places in which people choose to live and work, as well as to invest and to visit. This will be done by supporting proposals that contribute to the re-development of key brownfield areas both by enabling infrastructure and new master-planned development proposals.
While the URDF is not intended to provide direct support for particular housing projects, some of the projects it is currently supporting will enable a significant proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns.
The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to extend rent pressure zone designation periods beyond three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Last December, I published the Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 to deliver on a number of commitments flowing from Rebuilding Ireland and the commitments that I made to provide the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) with additional powers and resources to deliver enhanced protections to both tenants and landlords.
The Government has given priority to the legal drafting and passage of this Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. On 2 April 2019, the Government approved proposals I brought forward for significant Committee Stage amendments to the Bill, including a provision that the operation of existing Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) will now extend to 31 December 2021, supporting the continued restrictions on rent increases in the areas concerned.
The key measures and reforms in the Bill are designed to enhance the enforcement powers and data capacity for the RTB, provide greater security of tenure for tenants and further underpin the operation of the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) arrangements. Specifically in relation to RPZs, the Bill provides powers for the RTB to investigate and sanction landlords who fail to comply with the 4% rent increase restriction and the exemptions from the 4% restriction will be revised so as to apply only to the first rent setting, rather than every rent setting, of a new rental property. In addition, revisions are being proposed to give wider scope to the application of Rent Pressure Zones.
A fundamental principle of the Bill is to secure stability and confidence in the rental sector and its economic viability, and to safeguard and balance the rights of both tenants and landlords, while enhancing the effectiveness of the Residential Tenancies Acts as a whole. As the Deputy will be aware, the Bill is scheduled for Dáil Committee stage debate later this week and I look forward to constructive discussions with the Deputy and other members of the Committee in that context.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of the affordable home scheme; the number of sites identified; the timeframe for delivery; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
One of the Government’s key priorities is to address issues of housing affordability, including for low to middle-income households and workers. A multi-stranded approach is being taken to support such households in achieving home ownership, particularly those households earning annual gross incomes up to €50,000 for single applicants and €75,000 for dual applicants.
In terms of affordable purchase, I commenced the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase. I also made regulations last month on foot of which local authorities are now moving ahead to develop schemes of priority for the allocation of affordable housing in due course.
The new scheme will be set in the context of moderating growth in house prices and rental levels in the market and will complement other key Government affordability initiatives. These include the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, which has seen 720 loans to a total value of some €127.5m drawn down, and the Help to Buy scheme, under which some 10,500 applications, to a value of some €153m, have been approved.
In order to support the affordable housing programmes of local authorities, the Government has committed €310 million, over the three years 2019 to 2021, under the Serviced Sites Fund to support the provision of 6,200 affordable homes to purchase or rent. An initial 10 projects, with the potential for 1,400 affordable homes, have already been approved with an allocation of €43 million under the first call for proposals and a second call for further projects has now issued to 19 local authorities where economic assessments have been carried out by the local authorities concerned and affordability issues have been identified.
In addition, approximately 2,350 affordable homes will be delivered on mainly publicly owned lands supported through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market. The work of the Land Development Agency will also be of crucial importance in terms of delivering more affordable housing. The initial portfolio of sites that the Agency has access to will have the potential, over the short to medium term, to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally.
In parallel, the Dublin local authorities continue to progress a number of other significant housing projects on publicly owned lands, including the redevelopment of O'Devaney Gardens and a site at Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin City, yielding approximately 280 affordable homes. In addition, 380 cost rental homes will be delivered between projects at the former St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore and at Enniskerry Road in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown.
Taken together, programmes are in place under which nearly 18,000 affordable homes or homes with a LIHAF-related reduction will be delivered, with over 11,200 households also supported through the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan or the Help to Buy Scheme.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the average waiting time for HAP application processing completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all local authorities in the administration of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme. The HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. On average, HAP applications are processed by the SSC within 2 working days of receipt. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.
At the end of Quarter 4 2018, there were over 43,400 households having their housing needs met via HAP and over 25,000 landlords and agents in receipt of monthly HAP payments