To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when he will publish regulations under Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
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. Part 5 contains significant detail on the procedures and operation of the new Affordable Purchase Scheme.
The primary legislation will be supported by associated regulations, which are in the final stage of legal drafting following extensive consultation between my Department, the Housing Agency and local authorities. These will be published shortly. Most recently, my Department hosted a workshop for all local authorities on affordable housing and local authority land activation issues on 8 November 2018, where the operation of Part 5 was discussed.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the local authorities that were contacted in relation to the first call for affordable housing scheme proposals; the local authorities which responded; when funding for the proposals will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when he plans to issue a 2nd call for affordable housing proposals; if he will publish the relevant criteria arising from local authorities assessment of affordability in their areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
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 (SSF) announced as part of Budget 2019. The funding is available for key facilitating infrastructure, on public lands, to support the provision of affordable homes to purchase or rent. I envisage a maximum amount of SSF funding of €50,000 per affordable home and on this basis at least 6,200 affordable homes could be facilitated.
A first call for proposals under the Fund issued to the four Dublin local authorities; Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Louth and Cork County Councils, and Cork and Galway City Councils.
Fifteen proposals were received, from nine local authorities targeted under this first call. Only South Dublin and Louth County Councils did not make applications under the first call. However, it will be open to those Councils to submit applications under future calls, if they consider it appropriate. I expect to announce funding decisions in relation to the first call applications shortly and for the infrastructure works on approved projects to begin as soon as possible thereafter, with the delivery of affordable homes from late 2019/early 2020 onwards.
More broadly, all local authorities are carrying out economic assessments of the requirement for affordable housing in their areas and the viability to deliver such affordable housing from their sites. Guidance in this regard issued to local authorities in Circular letter APH/02/2018 of 16 October 2018 and my Department hosted a workshop for local authorities on 8 November to discuss these issues.
A second call for proposals under the Fund will be made shortly. The scope of that call will be influenced by the information received from local authorities, as part of the aforementioned assessments, which they have been requested to submit by 30 November.
As to whether the economic assessments will be published, this will be a matter for the individual local authorities concerned as the information contained therein may be commercially sensitive and its publication could prejudice the outcome of contractual or other negotiations with respect to the development of the sites concerned.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the income eligibility limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy.
The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household's basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.
As part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area, including Cavan and Monaghan, is underway. The Housing Agency is continuing to carry out the detailed statistical work, which will underpin this review on behalf of my Department.
The review will have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when the review of the tenant purchase scheme will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed tenure sustainable communities. Part V units are excluded from the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme 2016 to ensure that units delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The continued development of mixed tenure communities remains very important in promoting social integration.
Local authorities may also, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.
In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the first 12 months of the Scheme’s operation, including the issues referred to, has been undertaken. The review is now complete and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations. I hope to be in a position to publish the review shortly, following completion of consideration of a number of implementation issues arising.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of the development of a special purpose vehicle by a council (details supplied) for the investment of funds in social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) the Irish Council for Social Housing
Considerable work has been ongoing between the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH), a number of larger Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and their financial advisors on the development of a vehicle or mechanism for delivering private financing for AHBs providing social housing in line with commitments under the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness.
Two phases of the work with the sector's financial advisors had been completed by Q3 2018. This included market testing and the more detailed analysis in evaluating the updated and ongoing requirements of financial institutions and AHBs. The establishment of a single financing vehicle has not been completed as of yet but the work will continue to be progressed into 2019 with the objective of increasing the level of private financing from financial institutions for developing Tier 3 bodies.
Alongside this work, one AHB has established a SPV for the specific purpose of acquiring homes, and another AHB has obtained finance from a private financial institution. Both of these have resulted in homes being delivered by these AHBs through these financing arrangements.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when the regulatory impact analysis of the new electoral commission Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht undertook a public consultation process on the establishment of an electoral commission on the basis of a consultation paper prepared by my Department in 2015. The Committee published a report on the consultation in January 2016. This report contains a series of recommendations regarding the establishment of an electoral commission, including functions which should be assigned to it; independence, membership and accountability mechanisms; and the establishment process.
The report is informing the implementation of the commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government on establishing an electoral commission, including the preparation of an Electoral Commission Bill to give effect to that commitment. My Department is, in the first instance, preparing a Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Bill, which I expect to publish in the coming weeks. The RIA will set out a number of options for establishing an electoral commission, including functions that might be assigned to it.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of An Bord Pleanála’s adherence to statutory timeframes for planning decisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Under Section 126 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, An Bord Pleanála (the Board) has a statutory objective to determine planning appeals within 18 weeks. Where the Board does not consider it possible or appropriate to reach a decision within 18 weeks (e.g. because of the particular complexities of a case or the requirement to hold an oral hearing), it will inform the parties of the reasons for this, and will indicate when it intends to make its decision.
It is acknowledged that there has been a reduction in the Board's compliance rate with the statutory objective period over the past year due to a number of factors, including a significant increase in the number of cases it has received. At end October 2018, the compliance rate for normal planning appeals stood at 38%, and for all planning cases, the rate stood at 43.5%. A range of measures have been taken to address the situation, including the appointment of additional Board members. I am satisfied, taking account also of the increased Exchequer grant of €18.5m for the Board in 2019, a 7% increase on 2018, that the measures involved will enable the Board to significantly improve its compliance rate. Indeed, the number of cases decided by the Board in the 10 months to end October 2018 was up 26% on the corresponding period in 2017 and the Board's output is now at circa 250 cases per month.
In relation to large housing developments, it is important to note that new streamlined arrangements have been introduced to enable planning applications for strategic housing developments (SHD) to be made directly to the Board. At end September 2018, 39 SHD planning applications had been made, with the Board issuing decisions in 29 cases, all of which were made within the prescribed 16-week timeframe, delivering a 100% compliance rate in these cases. In addition, planning appeals in respect of housing developments of 30 units or more are prioritised.
The Board currently has a complement of 11 members, including a new Chairperson who took up duty on 30 October 2018, and an extra Board member engaged in June 2018 in addition to the normal complement of 10 members. The Board also employs over 150 staff members including the 10 additional dedicated staff engaged in 2017 to support the Strategic Housing Division. My Department will continue to liaise closely with the Board to ensure that it has appropriate resources to support it in the performance of its functions.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans for a review of the electoral registration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In March 2017 the Government determined that work should commence on modernisation of the voter registration process in the context of the possible need to register voters resident outside the State in the event that a referendum on extending the franchise in Presidential elections is passed.
The project, which it is estimated will take some 2-3 years to complete, will also include consideration of wider policy and legislative changes, including initiatives such as online registration. There will be an initial focus on a series of proposals including those made by the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht in its report on the consultation it carried out on the proposed Electoral Commission in 2016.
Conscious of the importance of the register and its role in our democracy and the need to ensure security and integrity are key priorities for any changes being considered, significant consultation is planned to engage all stakeholders, including registration authorities, the political system at all levels and the public.
An initial technical consultation with franchise teams in local authorities was completed in September 2018 and the constructive inputs received informed the further development of proposals which will now be put to a public consultation, that will offer an opportunity to all relevant stakeholders and the public to contribute. I expect that consultation to be launched in the coming week.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if he has reviewed the approved housing body component of housing targets for 2019 due to the reclassification of such bodies by EUROSTAT in March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is committed to using all mechanisms set out in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan to ensure that we maintain full momentum towards meeting the ambitious 50,000 social housing target set out in the Plan over the period 2016 - 2021. Notwithstanding the decision by Eurostat to confirm the reclassification of the majority of the Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), the Government continues to see a central role for the voluntary housing sector in contributing to delivery of social housing under Rebuilding Ireland.
The cost of enabling the AHBs to meet their delivery targets as set out in Rebuilding Ireland is already factored into the State's financial projections for the coming years, so the Eurostat decision will not impact on the planned social housing delivery.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to assist residents of multi-unit developments and housing estates that do not meet fire safety standards and building defects.
Primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. As such, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved; the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme.
It is incumbent on the parties responsible for poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials to face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate action to provide remedies for the affected homeowners. In addition, when a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 2003, to the ‘person having control’ of the building. The person having control is required to take reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire and to ensure the safety of persons in the event of fire.
In multi-unit developments, the "person having control" is generally the owner management company. Where apartment buildings that are defective from a fire safety perspective come to the attention of the local authority fire services, they work with management companies and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate levels of fire safety are achieved to minimise the risk to life.
In response to the many building failures that emerged in the last decade, my Department has been driving a comprehensive building control reform agenda. The measures involved include the introduction of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the establishment of a National Building Control Management Project and progressing primary legislation, the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill. The aim is to promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with the building regulations in the construction sector and this will continue to be the subject of focused attention in the months and years ahead.
All Parliamentary Questions I make about Housing, Planning and Local Government and their answers can be viewed in this section