To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to reform the repair and lease scheme; the annual target for units; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) was initially piloted in Carlow and Waterford and the pilot has been rolled out nationally since 23 February 2017. The scheme is one of a suite of measures available to local authorities to bring vacant properties back into use.
Since the national roll out, my Department has been working intensively with local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to implement the scheme. There have been a number of national and local press advertising initiatives, as well as targeted online promotion, in an effort to ensure that property owners who can avail of the scheme are aware of the benefits.
By the end of 2017, a total of 820 applications had been received under the scheme. Local authorities were engaging with the property owners in relation to 573 properties, 31 agreements for lease had been signed and 9 social housing homes had been delivered and tenanted. A detailed breakdown of the RLS scheme data up to end Q4 2017 is available on my Department’s website at the following link:
The nature of the RLS means that the period leading up to the signing of contracts, which entails sourcing and inspecting the properties, and negotiation with owners, is the slowest part of the process. All local authorities are active in sourcing and identifying potential properties and it is expected that significant numbers of contracts will be entered into once that process is complete. Once contracts are signed, delivery is estimated at between 2 and 6 months, a fraction of the time involved for a capital acquisition or build project.
Feedback from local authorities indicates that, in many cases, properties requiring extensive repair work, and therefore not suitable for the RLS, have been secured under the Buy and Renew Scheme which facilitates local authorities or AHBs to purchase vacant properties for social housing use. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that the levels of vacancy recorded as part of Census 2016 have significantly reduced in the interim, particularly in urban areas like Dublin where many previously vacant homes have since been occupied.
It is clear that by the end of 2017, RLS had not yet delivered the level of new social housing homes envisaged. I reviewed the operation of the scheme, as part of the review of Rebuilding Ireland, and concluded that the scheme has significant potential but there are areas where it can be improved to make it more attractive and effective. Accordingly, from 1 February 2018, a number of key changes were made to the scheme. These include:
a reduction in the minimum lease term required from 10 to 5 years;
increasing the proportion of market rent available to property owners where they take on more responsibilities under the tenancy, meaning that up to 92% of market rent will be available; and
provision of additional funding for property owners, over and above the current €40,000 limit, where the dwelling is a bedsit type dwelling being brought into compliance with the Standards for Rented Houses Regulations and made available for social housing.
I am making €32 million available for the scheme in 2018 and I expect local authorities and AHBs to continue to implement the scheme locally.
Over the period 2016 to 2021, the national target is for the delivery of an additional 50,000 social housing homes through Build, Acquisition and Leasing Schemes. The ambition is for 33,500 of these homes to be delivered through new build programmes including Part V; for 6,500 to be delivered through Acquisition programmes including the Housing Agency Acquisition Programme; and for the remaining 10,000 homes to be delivered under a range of leasing initiatives including the RLS. It is expected that the RLS will deliver up to 3,500 homes over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland, with a target of 800 to be delivered in 2018.
In January 2018, I asked all local authorities to provide a detailed report of their social housing delivery profiles out to 2021. These returns are currently being analysed with a view to issuing local authority targets under the heading of Build, Acquisition and Leasing very shortly.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section