To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of staff engaged in the housing delivery office per annum since its establishment; the average length of service in the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In line with the commitment under Action 2.9 of Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a dedicated Housing Delivery Office (HDO) was established within my Department, in August 2016, to support the accelerated delivery of housing across the social and private sectors, and tenure spectrum, in an integrated and timely manner. Working with the broader Housing and Planning Divisions in my Department, other key agencies, local authorities and the construction sector, the HDO supports the roll-out of complex projects, including identifying and resolving barriers to delivery, and monitors progress across key sites as they progress.
At the time of its establishment, the HDO comprised a team of 4 people with extensive expertise in project management, finance, planning and local government, including staff seconded from the local government sector and the National Development Finance Agency. Having carried out a range of initial initiatives, and taking account of the fact that some assignments to the office were time-limited, the HDO was refocused in September 2017 to work more closely on supporting local housing delivery and land management. In that context, the current team of 3, with service ranging from 3 to 20 months, works closely with the extensive range of highly experienced officers within the wider housing and planning areas of my Department and local authorities, across key disciplines such as architecture, planning, engineering and building control, project and construction management, quantity surveying, capital programme delivery and administration. As with all critical areas of activity in my Department, the resources available to the HDO are kept under regular review in the context of ongoing evolution of the Office's role.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the criteria used to calculate homelessness figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department currently publishes data on a monthly basis on 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, are published on my Department's website and can be accessed using the following link:
As the Deputy will be aware, during the compilation of the March Homeless Report, in the course of examining data from local authorities, my Department established that a number of local authorities had miscategorised individuals accommodated in houses and apartments, owned or leased by the local authorities, including in some instances people renting in the private rented sector but in receipt of social housing supports, as being in emergency accommodation. As these issues have not yet been fully addressed, I am not in position to provide a complete account of the extent of such practices. My Department is writing to local authorities as part of its continuing examination of the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the position regarding his plans for a national deposit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provides for, among other things, the establishment of a tenancy deposit protection scheme to be operated by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
There have been significant changes in the rental market since the 2015 scheme was first envisaged and designed. For example, the draft scheme was originally intended to be financed by the interest payable on deposits lodged; this is no longer viable, given current financial market conditions. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that disputes relating to deposits are no longer the most common dispute type referred to the RTB.
Financing the operation of the scheme is an important consideration, particularly in terms of ensuring that the likely outcomes of a new scheme are achieved efficiently and effectively and that the best value from public funds is secured. Careful consideration is therefore required to introduce any necessary reforms and enhancements to the 2015 scheme, with a view to considering whether and how to introduce a re-designed scheme that is fit for purpose and suitable for current and future rental and financial markets.
On foot of the consideration of the existing provisions and other matters, I anticipate that any necessary legislative changes can be progressed through the Oireachtas later this year.
Have the role of the Property Services Regulatory Authority to encompass a supervisory role for management owner companies been reviewed
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has reviewed the role of the Property Services Regulatory Authority to encompass a supervisory role for management owner companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) was established on 3 April 2012 under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 to regulate, control and supervise property service providers (i.e. auctioneers/estate agents, letting agents and property management agents) and to establish and enforce standards within the property services industry.
The statutory basis for property management companies in multi-unit developments (generally known as owners' management companies and which comprise the owners of units in the development) is provided under the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011. In general such companies are registered under the Companies Acts and are subject to company law.
The PSRA has no statutory function under the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011. This is appropriate since owners' management companies do not provide property services.
Nevertheless, complaints concerning the provision of services to owners' management companies by licensed property management agents may be referred to the PSRA. The statutory functions of the Authority include the investigation of such complaints and the imposition of sanctions where appropriate.
As outlined above, owners' management companies are not property service providers as defined in the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 and I have no plans to review the Act in this regard.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number and amount of water charge refunds paid to date; the plans of Irish Water for further repayments; the purpose to which unspent money will be put; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In keeping with the spirit of the provisions for the refund of domestic water charges under the Water Services Act 2017, and the earlier recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services on this matter, all reasonable efforts have been made to refund in full relevant domestic Irish Water customers the amounts due to them.
My Department provided funding of €177,535,103 to Irish Water in 2017 to cover the costs involved in issuing a refund to some 995,000 domestic customers of the utility, who paid water charges in full or in part. This included a provision of €5,869,630 in respect of administration costs.
Irish Water has recently reported to my Department that as of 30 April 2018, it has issued cheques to some 951,720 customers at a total value of approximately €166,340,224. Irish Water is continuing to actively encourage remaining customers to provide details necessary to enable payments to be made. This would include customers that have changed address, where the name on the account has changed, accounts that are in the name of 'the Occupier' or 'the Owner', those who have moved abroad without a forwarding address and rental properties where the tenant has moved on.
While there is no cut-off date for the making of refunds, the low level of engagement by the remaining customers to be refunded at this stage suggests that Irish Water may not be able to refund many of these customers.
My Department is currently liaising with Irish Water in relation to the arrangements to close out the funding provision for making refunds and a mechanism will be agreed with Irish Water that will enable it to meet its ongoing liability to relevant customers who seek a refund at a future date.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if the findings of the working group on rural housing will be published; the timeframe for the publication of new guidelines on rural housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the 2013 European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group, comprising senior representatives from my Department and planning authorities, was established in May 2017 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, with a view to ensuring 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.
This Working Group concluded its deliberations in September 2017 and taking account of the Group's analysis and recommended outcome, my Department has been engaging with the Commission on the matter, with a view to issuing a further circular letter to planning authorities as soon as possible, setting out revisions to the 2005 Guidelines that take account of the relevant ECJ judgment.
The number of times the National Homelessness Consultation Committee has met per annum since its establishment to date
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of times the National Homelessness Consultation Committee has met per annum since its establishment to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if his Department consulted with the statistics subgroup of the National Homelessness Consultation Committee in relation to the calculation of homeless figures for March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The National Homelessness Consultative Committee (NHCC) was established in April 2007. The Committee included representatives from my Department and a number of the NGOs working in the area. It was established to provide a forum for a dialogue between the Department and NGO members in relation to policies to address homelessness. While an informal working group including members of the NHCC had been established at one point to examine data and reporting, there is no statistics subgroup of the NHCC in existence.
The number of meetings held between 2009 and 2017, including meetings held jointly with the the Cross Departmental Team on Homelessness (CDT), are set out in the table below.
Year No of meetings
My Department meets regularly with NGO service delivery partners, outside the structures of the NHCC, to discuss issues of common concern.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if his Department is collating a central database of Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme applications from each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As with the previous local authority home loan offerings, loan applications under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan are made directly to the local authority in whose area the property proposed for purchase is situated. My Department therefore does not directly collect information on the number of enquiries to local authorities regarding the loan or the number of loan applications received by local authorities.
As is currently the case, my Department will continue to publish information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Information up to Q3 2017 is available on the Department's website at the following link:
, and this information will be updated on a quarterly basis as additional data is compiled.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Housing Agency provides a central support service which assesses completed applications that are made to the local authorities and makes recommendations to the authorities as to whether loans should be made to applicants. I have asked the Agency to centrally compile figures of the numbers of applications that it has assessed. To date, it has received a total of 660 valid applications for assessment from local authorities. Of these, 479 have been assessed and 46% of the applications which have been assessed by the Agency have been recommended for approval. It is then a matter for the relevant local authority credit committee to ultimately determine whether a loan application is approved, having regard to the Agency's recommendation and other relevant factors.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when the working group on short-term lettings will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Under Action 18 of the Strategy for the Rental Sector, my Department established a Working Group, involving representatives of all major public stakeholders with a policy interest in short-term lettings, to develop guidance in relation to planning applications, changes of use relating to short-term lettings and to examine the need for new regulatory arrangements.
The proposals under consideration by the Working Group, which has met on six occasions to date, have been aimed at facilitating short-term letting of accommodation within permanent residences, known as home-sharing, while protecting existing stock of residential property in areas of high demand, safeguarding neighbourhood amenity and consumer protection, and generating revenue to address any negative externalities of short-term letting.
The Working Group completed guidance for local authorities on planning applications relating to short-term lettings and my Department issued a circular on the matter last October.
The Group has since been focused on developing proposals for an appropriate comprehensive regulatory approach for short-term tourism-related lettings as well as identifying amendments to relevant legislation that may be necessary to give effect to such a regulatory regime.
The report of the Working Group has now been submitted to my Department and I will complete my consideration of it, including the need for a targeted public consultation, without delay.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to review and expand the rent pressure zone system; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
For an area to be designated a Rent Pressure Zone, it must satisfy the following criteria set out in section 24A(4) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (as inserted by section 36 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016):
(i) The annual rate of rent inflation in the area must have been 7% or more in four of the last six quarters; and
(ii) The average rent for tenancies registered in the area with the RTB in the last quarter must be above the average national rent (the National Standardised Rent in the RTB’s Rent Index Report) in the last quarter (€1,054 per month in Q4 2017).
My Department has conducted a review of the Rent Predictability Measure on the basis of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent data and a public consultation on the operation of the Rent Pressure Zones. In September 2017, arising from the review findings, I announced a number of measures to further strengthen the effectiveness of the rent setting and rent review laws, including the implementation of a change plan to develop and strengthen the role of the RTB, particularly with regard to enforcement.
These measures include the intention to make it an offence to increase rents in contravention of the legislation and to provide the RTB with the necessary powers and resources to protect tenants from illegal rent increases. These changes will strengthen the impact of the Rent Predictability Measure and should contribute to a further slowing in the growth in rents, in tandem with increasing supply.
The Government has given priority to the drafting and early publication of a Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill to address these and other urgent reforms in the residential rental sector.
The Residential Tenancies Board’s latest quarterly Rent Index Report for Q4 2017, which was published in March, shows reductions in the rate of rental inflation across both national and Dublin rents. The slowdown in the quarterly growth rate in Dublin rents to 1.1% in Q4 2017 is particularly noteworthy, bringing the annualised growth rate over 2017 to 5.2%, a drop from 8% in the year to Q3 2017. Significantly, this 5.2% increase for Dublin is the lowest annual growth rate since 2013. This latest quarterly index provides evidence that the introduction of the RPZs, in December 2016, is having a positive effect on rent inflation, particularly in Dublin.
The RTB Rent Index Report also includes a summary of the data used as the criteria for designating Rent Pressure Zones in relation to all Local Electoral Areas in the country. This allows everyone to see exactly where their area stands in relation to average rent levels and increases and possible designation.
The Housing Agency continues to monitor the rental market and may recommend further areas for designation. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found at a future date that additional areas meet the criteria, they will be designated as Rent Pressure Zones. However, at present, I have no plans to expand these measures further.