In line with the IAG’s recommendations, the Government has decided that the directly elected mayor will have many of the executive functions currently held by the local authority’s Chief Executive. These areas include: housing and building; road transport and safety; strategic development and environmental services. Minister Burke laid the IAG’s report (available shortly here) before the Houses of the Oireachtas today.
The Government today also sanctioned Government Departments to explore the potential transfer of additional functions to a directly elected mayor for Limerick once the role has been created.
The proposed legislation will be consistent with the IAG’s recommended governance structures. These will include:
“I want to again thank the implementation advisory group, chaired by Tim O’Connor, for its work in producing the report. The Government has accepted the recommendations on how the council should be structured. Some of the report recommendations would have far-reaching consequences and require further consideration.”
Minister Burke and the Government aims to publish legislation in the second quarter of this year. This legislation, if enacted, would enable the Programme for Government commitment to an election for a directly elected mayor in Limerick in 2021 to be met.
Ministers Humphreys and O’Brien announce that over 3,000 projects have been supported through 2020 Community Enhancement Programme
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien TD, have today announced that over 3,000 projects have been supported through the 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP).
The Programme, funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, is designed to support community groups, particularly in disadvantaged areas, through the provision of small capital grants.
Among the projects funded in 2020 include childcare groups and playgrounds, recreational groups, community gardens and premises, sports grounds and initiatives that support the elderly.
There were two rounds of this funding in 2020 – June and August - with a total of €7m available to improve facilities.
In total 3,068 projects are being funded.
Commenting today, Minister Humphreys stated:
“The Community Enhancement Programme has supported a varied and wide-ranging list of projects in every county of Ireland across 2020.
The Programme shows how relatively small amounts of funding can make a big difference to communities and organisations that carry out really important work.
“If we’ve learned anything in recent months, as we’ve coped with this Pandemic, it’s the importance of our small community groups.
“They have gone above and beyond in 2020 and I am delighted as Minister to support them.
Minister O’Brien stated:
“The work completed by community and voluntary groups each year is hugely important and can be seen in communities around the country.
“I am delighted that an additional €5 million was secured as part of the July Stimulus for community centres which is making a big difference across the country.”
“The projects listed show the value of work being completed and I would encourage groups to contact their Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) for information on the 2021 CEP when this is launched later this year.
Some examples of the type of projects supported include:
Co. Louth: Irish Wheelchair Association Louth: €3,200
Some county-by-county examples of community centre projects supported through CEP in August:
· Galway City: Doughiska Roscam Ardaun Community Development Company: €25,622
· Kerry: Tralee Community Garden Project: €3,750
· Laois: Rosenallis Community Centre: €15,350
· Louth: Redeemer Family Resource Centre: €11,650
· Meath: Enfield Development Group: €14,457
Today’s announcement follows open application processes which were administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area.
This ensures that LCDCs can use their local experience to ensure the funding goes to where it is needed most. It is intended to run the programme again in 2021.
The list of projects supported to date under both rounds of the Community Enhancement Programme is available on the Government’s Website.
-Overall €56.4m spent to bring 3,607 vacant homes back into use-
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has greatly welcomed the fact that the 2020 Voids Stimulus Programme has exceeded targets with 2,565 social homes refurbished and brought back into use across the country.
Overall in 2020, €56.4m was spent to bring a total of 3,607 vacant homes back into productive use within the social housing stock. This represents the highest ever yearly spend and the highest number of homes to be refurbished under the voids programme.
Specifically, as part of the Stimulus Programme announced in July 2020 Minister O’Brien allocated over €40 million for the refurbishment of 2,500 vacant social homes. By the end of 2020 1,925 were occupied with a further 640 tenancies accepted. Importantly, 297 of the refurbished homes were reserved for tenancies for homeless households at a cost of €5.2m.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “The shutdown in construction activity in the first half of last year has had a big impact on our delivery of new build social housing. The Government decided as part of the July Stimulus to make up for lost ground by allocating €40m for the refurbishment of social housing stock which was otherwise vacant.
“I asked Local Authorities to ensure that all homes were refurbished and at the very least allocated by the end of the year. Local Authorities responded with great enthusiasm and their speedy uptake in the scheme is to be highly commended.
“Over the course of the year 3,607 vacant social homes have been brought back into use, 2,565 of those in just six months. They have been refurbished and allocated to those on the social housing list and those experiencing homelessness.
“There was also an added economic benefit with further employment generated for local builders, carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians and so on,” he concluded.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has appointed Seamus Neely, former Chief Executive of Donegal County Council to the position of Chair of the newly established Independent Working Group on Defective Housing.
The membership and terms of reference of the Independent Working Group are currently being finalised and will be published in due course.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “Having worked on this issue, and advocated on behalf of affected homeowners for many years, I was very supportive, along with my Government colleagues, of its inclusion in the Programme for Government.
“The Programme for Government specifically states that the issue is to be examined in the first 12 months of the Government and the establishment of this Independent Working Group, which will be up and running in Q1 of this year, is a clear demonstration of how seriously I treat this issue.
“I have had several meetings with stakeholder representative groups over recent months and I believe there is widespread support for the establishment of this group. I want to thank Mr Neely for accepting the position and I look forward to working with him, and all members of the Group, when fully established,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien has today [20th January 2021] published the Affordable Housing Bill 2020.
The Bill provides for the introduction of three new schemes delivering on the Programme for Government commitment to put affordability at the heart of the housing system and prioritise the increased supply of affordable homes. These schemes will see:
The final details of the Affordable Purchase Shared Equity scheme are being advanced based on engagement with stakeholders and it is intended that when finalised it will be open to all new build homes, subject to regional price caps and targeted at first time buyers.
Minister O’Brien said, “This is the first affordable housing scheme of its kind in Ireland. It is a specific and targeted measure to mitigate the affordability challenges faced by young working people, many of whom are caught in a rental trap.
“The scheme will increase housing supply as it helps to improve viability by bridging the gap between the maximum mortgage that might be available to a household and the actual cost of a new home for ordinary income families. In Budget 2021 we have put aside an initial €75m for 2021 to start the scheme up and will boost this with additional private investment.
“As a matter of course, when progressing a new scheme such as this, consultation takes place to examine potential range of consequences. My Department continues to work closely with stakeholders including partners in Government, the Housing Agency, pillar banks and our colleagues in the European Commission to advance this legislation,” he said.
When finalised, the scheme will accommodate appropriate control mechanisms and it will be in accordance with Central Bank rules. Development of the scheme is informed by international practice for example in the UK where its scheme has increased supply by 14%. There is no obligation to repay the loan after a certain point until the house is sold but it will make financial sense for the owner to pay down the equity stake.
Minister O’Brien added, “Comparable schemes have not led to any significant increase in house prices. According to the Independent National Audit Office, the scheme in the UK increased housing supply by 14% and inflation by 1%.
“Assuming that potential buyers are currently renting this support will save them up to €11,000 per year in rent and in the long term save the state rental support payments.
“In addition to the affordable purchase schemes, the Bill for the first time, defines ‘Cost Rental’ as a new form of tenure and places it on a statutory footing. This legislation provides the basis for the first cost rental homes in the State which will be delivered in 2021 with many more in the pipeline in the years thereafter.
“A ‘Call for Proposals’ to AHBs for the delivery of approximately 400 Cost Rental Homes, to be made available at a minimum 25% below open market values, has already been issued. Resulting homes will be used for Ireland’s first Cost Rental tenancies, a new sector of the rental market in which tenants pay rent that covers the costs of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
Notes:the Affordable Housing Bill 2020 is available here.