To ask the Minister for Finance the amount of finance available per annum for Home Building Finance Ireland to lend to developers; the amount loaned out to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Home Building Finance Ireland ("HBFI") was provided with a funding facility of €750m consisting of €20m equity and a loan facility of €730m. In the first nine months of operation to 31st October 2019, HBFI approved facilities of €102m, enabling the delivery of 513 new homes. The full €730m is available to HBFI for lending and the amount approved each year will vary depending on a number of factors, not least of which will be the level of demand from the construction sector. While the overall amount available will decrease as money is lent, the fund will be replenished as developments are completed and loan facilities are repaid.
Should the initial €730m provided be utilised in full at any point in time HBFI has the ability to raise a further €750m from other market sources through the issue of bonds and securities on commercial terms. Further information is available at www.hbfi.ie
To ask the Minister for Finance the potential impact of a €650 million increase in Home Building Finance Ireland borrowing on the general Government debt, general Government balance and calculations of available financial resource fiscal space under EU and national rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI) was established in late 2018 with debt and equity funding of up to €750 million made available by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to HBFI for the achievement of its purposes at the direction of the Minister for Finance.
HBFI has been classified within the general government sector by the Central Statistics Office. Accordingly, its activity may impact on general government debt and the general government balance. As the ISIF is also within general government, ISIF’s funding to HBFI has no impact on general government debt.
The ISIF funding is in the form of an equity investment of €20 million, coupled with committed loans to HBFI of up to €730 million that will be provided on an on-going basis to meet HBFI’s lending needs as they arise. It is currently expected that the funding available from ISIF will be sufficient to ensure that HBFI has the capacity to fund the delivery of up to 7,500 homes over a five-year period. It is important to note that this funding may be recycled over the course of HBFI’s life.
In the event that HBFI may require further funding it has the ability to raise this from other market sources through the issuance of bonds and securities on commercial terms. Any such issuance will count towards general government debt.
HBFI’s purpose is to provide financing to commercially viable residential property developments to increase the supply of new homes. Such transactions are classified as financial transactions in the European System of Accounts 2010 statistical framework. Financial transactions do not count as general government revenue or expenditure and, therefore, do not impact on the general government balance.
The Irish public sector remains highly indebted. In modified gross national income (GNI*) terms, a better barometer of debt sustainability than debt-to-GDP, our debt ratio in 2019 is over 100 per cent. HBFI borrowings of €650m would increase this by c. 0.3 percentage points.
The first and full-cost of replacing revenue from residential construction development levies with funding to local authorities
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the first and full-cost of replacing revenue from residential construction development levies with funding to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
With regard to development contributions, my role as Minister is generally to provide the necessary legislative and policy framework governing development contribution schemes operated by planning authorities. Under sections 48 and 49 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, planning authorities may levy development contributions. The basis for the determination of a development contribution is set out in a development contribution scheme adopted by the elected members as a reserved function.
Income from development contributions must be ring-fenced to pay for public infrastructure and facilities. Appendix 5 of the amalgamated Annual Financial Statements of local authorities show a total income of €237.4m for Development Contributions for the financial year ending 31/12/2018, which is the most recent year for which audited figures are available.
The Government introduced a special two-year time-limited residential development contribution rebate scheme in 2015 in respect of the functional areas of the four Dublin local authorities and the metropolitan area of Cork only. Rebate was paid in respect of 875 new homes under the scheme at a cost of €7.322m.
The full cost of applying a national waiver on residential development contribution levies is not available from local authorities AFS as the figures do not differentiate between levies collected from residential and non-residential development.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to address labour shortages in the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is closely monitoring all aspects of construction skills and labour supply, through the national skills database and through the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council and the Regional Skills Fora. The EGFSN is currently tendering for a skills demand study to determine the demand and nature of the Irish Construction sector’s skills needs in the period to 2030. A Construction Sector Working Group has also been established to ensure regular and open dialogue between Government and the construction sector in relation to issues that may impact on the successful delivery of the National Development Plan (NDP) on a value-for-money basis for the State. Part of the Group's remit is to consider the supply of necessary skills and enhancing the capacity of the sector to meet infrastructural priorities over the next decade.
As a demand driven programme, the number of apprenticeship placements is determined by employers within the construction sector. In recent years, annual intake in construction related apprenticeships has steadily been increasing, from a low level of just 650 in 2010 to 3,398 in 2018. As of end November there were 3,300 new registrations on construction related apprenticeships, and these are forecast to increase further up to 2022. The range of apprenticeships on offer is also being expanded to meet the identified skill needs of the sector. Arising from the Apprenticeship Council’s two calls for apprenticeship proposals, an apprenticeship in Engineering Services Management was rolled out in 2019. Apprenticeships in scaffolding, quantity surveyor and roofing and cladding scaffolding and senior quantity surveyor apprenticeship are currently being developed into national apprenticeship programmes.
Construction skills are also being targeted through Higher Education programmes, including Springboard, and through further education and training programmes. In the area of Construction, there are 14 courses under Springboard+ 2019, providing for 374 places. To date 272 participants have enrolled in or accepted places on these courses. It is expected that this number will rise in the New Year as some of the approved course in the construction sector will not begin until the spring and others may have a second intake of students.
In terms of upskilling the existing workforce, initiatives include the establishment of a dedicated NZEB Training centre in Wexford which is currently providing 10 NZEB training programmes to existing construction workers in areas such as plumbing, electrical, bricklaying, carpentry and plastering. As of the end of October 2019, 322 people received NZEB training. In November 2019 the Skillnet Ireland board approved the awarding of funding to a new Skillnet named the Construction Professional Skillnet which will be promoted by the Construction Industry Federation. This network will seek to improve competitiveness of the industry through upskilling the workforce, and create talent pipelines by developing resilience, core competencies and accessible progression opportunities to a predominantly young workforce.
The most recent review of the employment permits occupations lists concluded on 12th July with 34 submissions of proposals for adjustments, 8 of which were from the construction sector including CIF. Among the construction industry submission job titles were Façade / Curtain Wall Designer and Building Information Modelling Specialists – BIM Manager / BIM Technicians (Modeler). A submission is due to be brought to Minister Humphreys before the end of the year.
The amount of finance available per annum for the Housing Finance Agency to lend to approved housing bodies
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount of finance available per annum for the Housing Finance Agency to lend to approved housing bodies; the amount loaned out to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Housing Finance Agency (HFA) plc is a non-commercial semi-State company under the aegis of the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, limited by shares under the terms of the Housing Finance Agency Act 1981.
The principal objectives of the HFA are to advance funds to local authorities and approved housing bodies (AHBs) to be used by them for any purpose authorised under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2016, and to borrow or raise funds for these purposes.
The HFA is demand-led by loan applications and finance is raised as needed for the provision of such lending. Rather than funding allocations for particular years, the HFA has a statutory borrowing limit of €10 billion. Drawn funding as at 30 November 2019 amounts to approx. €4.26 billion.
The HFA advanced €238 million in 2018 and €582 million to-date in 2019 to AHBs.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the first and full-year costs of reinstating the payment of apprenticeship fees in phase 4 and 6.
An Annual Student Contribution (ASC) is levied on all students attending Institutes of Technology (IoTs). The amount of ASC charged to apprentices is calculated on a pro rata basis of the time which they spend in IoTs during the academic year. In cases where training is delivered in an Education and Training Board there is no contribution made by the apprentice.
For craft apprenticeships, the ASC charged is typically one third of the €3,000 ASC paid by students attending for the full academic year and so amounts to approximately €1,000 per apprentice per period spent in the IoT. In the case of the new consortia led apprenticeships the contribution varies for each programme as their off-the-job training has a more flexible structure.
Prior to Budget 2014 the portion of the ASC relating to examination fees was paid by the apprentice with FÁS/SOLAS paying the remainder of the fee. If the arrangement in place prior to Budget 2014 arrangement were to be reinstated the cost to the State is estimated at €4.8 million in a full year.
Plans to review the €2 million eligibility spending threshold for single stage approval for local authority social housing
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to review the €2 million eligibility spending threshold for single stage approval for local authority social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Review of the Public Spending Code, carried out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was considered by Government yesterday. The Code is the central framework for the control and governance of all public expenditure activities, including social housing construction projects, where our responsibility is to ensure value for money in the essential work we undertake to provide housing for our citizens.
In relation to the €2million eligibility threshold for the single stage process for social housing projects, this threshold was reviewed as part of the recent review of the Code. This has had regard to the level of public funding involved and the fact that raising the €2m threshold would remove significant oversight from the Department over a substantial element of the social housing build programme, leading potentially to an increased risk of cost overruns and/or time delays. Taking account of these issues, as well as the importance of delivering quality and sustainable housing, no change to the €2m threshold level is proposed in the revised Code.
To date, the uptake of the single stage process has been modest, at best. Of around 660 capital-funded social housing projects since 2016, around 280 are within the €2m threshold. Of these, only approximately 45 are using the single stage arrangement.
The reality is that the time involved in approving projects is only a small element in the process of bringing social housing projects from initial conception all the way through to construction. This is borne out by the fact that the single stage process has the potential to save, at most, 6-8 weeks off the pre-construction target programme of 59 weeks. Most of the time within that 59 week period is required to allow local authorities to complete their work in relation to design, planning, procurement and engagement with contractors.
It is important to note also that the social housing approval arrangements have already been streamlined, by concentrating the 9 review stages of the Code into just 4. The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that the streamlined processes are operated efficiently, with a view to moving projects through both the single stage and 4 stage approval processes as expeditiously as possible. This is evident in the fact that it has been possible, in some cases, to complete the 59 week 4-stage process in as little as 44 weeks.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date the spouses and children's pension scheme was opened to female employees in the Civil Service; if allowances will be made for those that do not have sufficient contributions before they retire but were excluded from joining the scheme before 1 June 1981; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
S.I. No. 56/1981 amended the existing Civil Service Widows' and Children's Contributory Pension Scheme and provided for the admission of established female civil servants to the scheme on terms equivalent to those applicable to male civil servants from 1 June 1981. In effect, that scheme then became the Spouses' and Children's Pension Scheme.
Membership of this scheme then applied to female officers in either of the following two categories:
(a) Those who were serving, or commenced to serve, in an established capacity at any time between 1 March 1980 and 31 May 1981, who did not opt out of the scheme and whose benefits take the form of a pension, lump sum and death gratuity rather than pension only.
(b) Those appointed to established posts on or after 1 June 1981.
If an individual who has been married during their scheme membership has not made periodic contributions from salary in respect of all pensionable service, non-periodic contributions are payable at retirement in respect of the outstanding ‘relevant service’, up to a maximum of 40 years. This relevant service can include pre-scheme service, depending on the periodic contributions which have been paid at the time of retirement. These non-periodic contributions will prevent a shortfall of scheme contributions and are usually deducted from the retirement lump sum at a rate of 1% of retiring salary for each year of relevant service.
However, I would note that once an individual becomes a member of the scheme, their spouse and children would be covered by the scheme in the unfortunate event of the member’s death, regardless of when the member joined the scheme or if they have pre-scheme service. The scheme rules state that if a member dies in service, the spouse’s and children’s pensions will be paid based on the pension that the scheme member would have received had they served until the retiring age. In this event, non-periodic contributions are also deducted from the death gratuity in respect of service for which periodic contributions have not been paid.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new secondary school for the Malahide and Portmarnock areas of County Dublin as announced in November 2015; if he has identified locations for the proposed schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The building project for Malahide Portmarnock Educate Together Secondary School is being delivered under my Department's Design & Build programme. This delivery programme uses a professional external Project Management team to progress the project through the stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction.
The procurement process for a bundle of projects has commenced, with the publication of a contract notice to determine a shortlist of interested contractors. The new school building for the school referred to by the Deputy is part of this bundle of projects. The procurement process (and the associated tendering to short-listed contractors) for this bundle of projects will be ongoing during Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. It is anticipated that construction of this school building project will commence in Q2 2020. The first phase is planned to facilitate occupation of the new permanent school building in the 2020/2021 school year. The site is located in Drinan, Swords.
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of emergency refuge accommodation spaces for victims of domestic violence provided in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. This includes the provision of emergency refuge accommodation for individuals and families that experience domestic violence.
I have requested that Tusla respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons aged 18 to 24 years of age that are living independently and receiving housing supports in the form of emergency accommodation will be eligible for the higher rate of jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if persons aged 18 to 24 years of age that are eligible for housing supports but that are unable to access a tenancy will be eligible for the higher rate of jobseeker’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The reduced age related rates of payment for younger jobseeker’s allowance and supplementary welfare allowance recipients were introduced on a phased basis to protect them from welfare dependency by providing them with a strong financial incentive to participate in education or training to improve their chances of obtaining sustainable full time employment.
Age related reduced rates do not apply to jobseekers with a dependent child, or those who have transferred to jobseeker’s allowance from disability allowance or who were in State care during the 12 months before age 18.
As part of Budget 2020 I announced that jobseekers aged 18-24 living independently and receiving state support towards their housing costs will receive the full rate of jobseekers allowance or supplementary welfare allowance.
My Department’s report on the impact of age related reduced rates of jobseekers allowance on young jobseekers aged 18 to 25 years of age found that that there was a small cohort of young people who face significant financial barriers who are living independently and in receipt of State support towards their housing costs. The residual income of those on age related reduced rates after paying the minimum contribution payments on rent supplement, housing assistance payment (HAP) and other local authority housing supports is significantly lower than those on the maximum rate of jobseeker’s allowance or supplementary welfare allowance which can lead to financial hardship.
This measure, which comes into effect in January 2020, will provide that young people in these circumstances can receive the maximum rate of payment and will help young people to continue living independently and reduce the threat of financial hardship. For those aged 18-24 this will provide a weekly increase of up to €90.30 with their weekly payment increasing from €112.70 to €203 for jobseekers and to €201 for those in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance. The estimated expenditure in a full year is €1 million and the estimated number of young people who will benefit from this measure is 300.
Young people who qualify for this measure will continue to be encouraged to engage with the employment support services and avail of pro-employment supports and schemes. A range of activation measures for the under 25’s have been developed and improved over recent years, most notably the EU-wide Youth Guarantee Programme and the Youth Employment Support Scheme which I introduced as part of Budget 2018.
My Department works with Tusla and non-Government organisations to support all vulnerable people including young people who are leaving care, at risk of, or experiencing homelessness, or in insecure situations.
Protocols are in place in all Intreo Centres to ensure that payments and activation supports for young people in insecure situations such as homelessness are not interrupted and they are advised to register with the Local Authority to engage with Housing Assistance Payment and local homeless services.
Supports under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme are also available to young people to help with essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. Young people who are in vulnerable situations, including homelessness are assessed to see what supports are most suitable for their individual circumstances. As the needs of this group are complex they require assessment on an individual basis and I believe this is the most appropriate way of helping them to overcome the significant challenges they face.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section