To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if the cost rental pilot project has gone out to tender; when construction is due to commence; the number of units due to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Acknowledging that renters in Dublin and other major urban centres are currently facing significant access and affordability challenges, the Government is committed to the introduction of a not-for-profit, cost rental sector in Ireland. Together with delivering more affordable and predictable rents, cost rental can make a sustainable impact on national competitiveness and the attractiveness of our main urban centres as places to live and work.
To support the introduction of affordable housing, including cost rental, the Government has made €310m available to local authorities to fund facilitating infrastructure, under the Serviced Sites Fund, over the next three years.
Two path-finder cost rental projects are currently being progressed. Firstly, the Housing Agency, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and two Approved Housing Bodies (Respond and Túath) are working on a project at the Enniskerry Road, Dublin, which will deliver 50 cost rental homes. This project is providing very valuable learning and is helping to shape the contractual model and specifications for future larger-scale projects. Planning permission is currently in place and tenders have been assessed. An application submitted by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for funding under the Serviced Sites Fund last year in relation to the project was successful. It is anticipated that construction will commence on this project in the second quarter of 2019.
The second project, St. Michael’s Estate, Emmet Road in Inchicore, is estimated to have the potential to accommodate circa. 470 homes in a high quality development. The current tenure mix as agreed with by my Department is 30% Social and 70% Cost Rental. It is expected that the procurement process for the design team will get underway in Q2 2019.
It is estimated by the National Development Finance Agency that rents of between 15-25% below market are achievable. The new apartment guidelines were applied to all units. The European Investment Bank is also working on this project in terms of financial and advisory services.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to fund a rural resettlement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government's Action Plan for Rural Development: Realising our Potential, has a clear objective of working across Government Departments to deliver a co-ordinated group of strategies and actions to ensure the success of vibrant rural communities across Ireland. My Department works closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development on rural housing issues.
In relation to social housing, it is already possible for households to move and relocate between local authority areas, including relocating from an urban to a rural location, under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme.
Under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, a household may apply to one housing authority only for social housing support, at a time. Currently it is not possible for a household on the waiting list of one housing authority to transfer its application to another authority and to carry the time spent on the previous list.
A commitment has been given to examine the possibility of introducing a “housing passport”. The basic premise is that households in receipt of, or qualified for, social housing support in one local authority area could potentially transfer to, or be allocated, social housing in another local authority area. My Department is currently developing proposals in relation to this matter, details of which will be outlined when the work involved is complete
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the average length of time taken to process a cost-benefit analysis in 2017 and 2018; the number of such analyses received; the number accepted and rejected, respectively in 2017 and 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Under the Public Spending Code, where a capital project exceeds €20m, the Sponsoring Agency (the local authority) is required to submit a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) or a Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA) prior to receiving Departmental Approval in Principle. The purpose of a CBA is to assess whether or not the social and economic benefits associated with a project are greater than its social and economic costs. The CBA compares the costs of alternative ways in which an objective, or set of objectives, can be achieved, to determine the optimum path for the project.
My Department received CBAs/CEAs in relation to eleven housing projects over the period 2017/2018, of which just one was submitted in 2017. Of these eleven CBAs/CEAs, two have been approved over an average timeframe of ten weeks. Engagement is ongoing on the examination of the remaining CBAs between my Department, the relevant local authority and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).
Simultaneously, my Department is currently preparing detailed sectoral guidance to support local authorities on the appraisal process for social housing projects. My Department is also actively working with Dublin City Council to progress what could be used as a blueprint CBA/CEA. This guidance and blueprint CBA/CEA will support all local authorities in carrying out such appraisals on housing projects through a standardised approach in order to streamline the review process undertaken by my Department and DPER. It will ensure that all of the available options are fully appraised and evaluated with the best approach being followed from a value for money, housing and sustainable communities viewpoint.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to establish a rolling fund for land purchases for local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As matters stand, local authorities have a significant residential land bank which is being utilised to deliver homes through the social housing construction programme and other schemes under Rebuilding Ireland.
To support the strategic development of their land banks, all local authority residential sites were recorded on the Rebuilding Ireland land map. This land map can be accessed on the Rebuilding Ireland website at http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/. The map includes details of over 700 local authority and Housing Agency owned sites amounting to some 1,700 hectares, and local authorities have been requested to update the map on a quarterly basis.
In terms of funding, approximately €2.4 billion is being provided for housing in 2019. All local authorities are encouraged to bring forward viable and appropriate development proposals, which can be funded through the range of schemes and programmes that have been put in place.
While the development of existing local authority sites is the priority, in instances where a local authority has identified a need to acquire additional lands, it may seek to borrow the required finance from the Housing Finance Agency. Once the site is included within the social housing construction programme, my Department would normally consider recouping the land costs and any associated loan interest charges to the local authority, as part of the social housing project approval process.
In accordance with Section 106 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended, a decision to borrow is a reserved function of the elected members of the local authority concerned who are accountable for all expenditure by the local authority. As such, it is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources.
Section 106 of the said Act also provides that local authorities must obtain the consent of the appropriate Minister to undertake borrowing. In this regard, a request to borrow for housing land acquisition can be submitted by the local authority to my Department. Sanction may be granted based on an assessment of the financial viability of potential loans insofar as individual local authorities are concerned, and an assessment as to whether the borrowing can be accommodated within the context of the fiscal rules. My Department will continue to work in a co-operative manner with local authorities regarding such applications.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to establish a new building standards and consumer protection agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to establish a redress scheme to assist homeowners with latent defects; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In the first instance, I would like to acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
However, 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. In this regard, 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.
It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control, it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters.
Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers. When a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for fire safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 2003, to the ‘person having control’ of the building. In multi-unit developments, the "person having control" is generally the owner management company. Under the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, the owner management company must establish a scheme for annual service charges and a sinking fund for spending on refurbishment, improvement or maintenance of a non-recurring nature of the multi-unit development.
While it is not intended to establish a new Building Standards and Consumer Protection Agency, stronger compliance with building standards has been a key priority for Government in response to the building failures that have emerged over the last decade. The Building Control Reform agenda was initiated in 2011, when a high level working group reviewed the existing building control regulatory framework. The key deficits identified in the regulatory regime were the lack of involvement of construction professionals on site and lack of accountability in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations.
In response, a three pronged Building Control Reform Agenda has been developed:
These reforms, while some are still in progress, have already brought, and will continue to bring, a new order and discipline to bear on construction projects, creating an enhanced culture of compliance with the Building Regulations.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he has taken to review the research budget of the EPA on water management and conservation in line with the recommendations of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as environmental regulator, is responsible for setting quality standards and enforcing compliance with EU directives and National Regulations for drinking water supplies and wastewater discharges to water bodies. Irish Water is the lead authority in relation to the management and conservation of public water supplies.
My Department engages on an ongoing basis with the EPA in relation to its role in respect of water and wastewater services, including with regard to the resource implications arising from its responsibilities. Under its Water Quality Programme, my Department funds the EPA to conduct a range of activities to facilitate and support the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, including the water quality monitoring of rivers, lakes, estuaries and groundwater.
In relation to policy on water conservation, the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, which I published in May 2018, sets out a series of high-level policy objectives across the three thematic areas of Quality, Conservation, and Future Proofing, which must be pursued when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. The EPA was involved as a key stakeholder in the process leading to preparation of the Policy Statement, which is available on my Department's website at the following link:
The Policy Statement supports the promotion of water conservation and water resource management as an important element of water services policy that is to be reflected in strategic investment planning by Irish Water. For the period of the Policy Statement, this will involve the prioritisation of multifaceted programmes around leak detection and repair, network improvements, cost effective metering, public awareness campaigns and funding to fix customer side leaks. The National Leakage Reduction Programme in particular includes investment of some €250 million over the next four years under the Find and Fix repair scheme and the Water Mains Rehabilitation programme.
This Policy Statement was informed by the 2017 Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services which was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and which includes a number of recommendations in relation to the continued use of metering to support water conservation, to reduce leakages and to ensure compliance with the European Union Water Framework Directive, as opposed to for revenue raising purposes. The Water Services Policy Statement is consistent with this position.
The Water Services Policy Statement is expected to influence all stakeholders, including An Fóram Uisce which has a statutory role in relation to water conservation and the EPA in respect of developing research proposals. Having regard to its statutory role, the Policy Statement provides that An Fóram Uisce will also consider the recommendations in respect of water conservation made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee with a view to identifying practical steps for their implementation
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he has taken to introduce a BER style water conservation rating for buildings in line with the recommendations of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the measures he has taken to fund promote water conservation systems in line with the recommendations of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The provisions of the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services have now been largely legislated for, as required, in the Water Services Act 2017. Promoting the efficient and sustainable use of water is central to my Department’s water policy. The Government's Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, as published in May last year, sets out the range of policy objectives across the key thematic areas of quality, conservation and future proofing that will be pursued between now and 2025.
Reflecting the provisions contained in the Water Services Act 2017 and, in line with the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Policy Statement supports the promotion of water conservation and water resource management as an important element of water services policy that is to be reflected in strategic investment planning by Irish Water. For the period of the Policy Statement, this will involve the prioritisation of multifaceted programmes around leak detection and repair, network improvements, cost effective metering, public awareness campaigns and funding to fix customer side leaks. The National Leakage Reduction Programme in particular includes investment of some €250 million over the next four years under the Find and Fix repair scheme and the Water Mains Rehabilitation programme.
Legislative provision to discourage the excessive use of water services was included in the Water Services Act 2017. Excessive usage is determined by reference to the threshold amount of 213,000 litres per household per annum as specified by ministerial order with effect from 1 January 2018, in line with provisions contained in sections 8 and 9 of the Water Services Act 2017.
Irish Water is responsible for developing and implementing the necessary administrative arrangements, including billing arrangements, subject to oversight and approval by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The amount to be charged will be determined by the CRU and the process that is to lead to a decision in this regard has now commenced.
Once administrative arrangements and charges have been approved by the CRU, Irish Water will be in a position later this year to notify relevant customers who, having regard to their consumption patterns during 2018, appear to be consuming water services excessively and therefore potentially liable for excessive usage charges. Only customers who continue to consume water services excessively during the six month period following receipt of a formal notice in this way, will become liable for charges to cover excessive usage during the six month notice period and any subsequent periods.
The overall aim is to encourage water conservation rather than to generate revenue. On this basis, I understand that Irish Water will work proactively with relevant customers to identify whatever practical steps may be necessary in order to address their situation and bring their consumption back within the threshold level. Additional allowance amounts for water usage will be available to larger households (where the number of residents exceeds four) and exemptions will be available in cases of medical need.
The Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee recommended a proactive approach to promoting awareness of water conservation, and Irish Water places a strong emphasis on this important area. A dedicated section on the Irish Water website provides information in relation to water conservation at www.water.ie/bewatersmart. The content includes suggested lifestyle changes to save water and information on how to check for water leaks in the home. Information is also available on water saving devices outside of the home, including rainwater butts and rainwater reuse for the farming sector.
Irish Water’s website also has a facility where members of the public can report leaks in public areas. Based on the information provided, Irish Water will follow up to confirm a leak on the public mains and complete a repair.
Irish Water supports a number of environmental education campaigns which raise awareness, promote understanding and encourage people to take action on water conservation issues. This includes the Green Schools Programme, which has delivered savings of 360 million litres of water in schools in one year alone. Irish Water has also engaged with primary and secondary schools as part of Engineers Ireland’s Engineers Week, to increase knowledge and awareness of water conservation and its benefits to the environment.
Irish Water has undertaken a research study to provide an in-depth understanding of household water usage. The insights will help guide the roll out of product and behavioural interventions to improve water conservation in Ireland. Key findings show that, in general, people agree with the need to value and conserve water. These research findings are providing recommendations for behavioural change and water saving devices inside the home.
The Water Services Policy Statement is expected to influence all stakeholders, including An Fóram Uisce, which has a specific advisory role in relation to water conservation under the Water Services Act 2017. Having regard to its statutory role, the Policy Statement provides that An Fóram Uisce will also consider the recommendations in respect of water conservation included in the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, with a view to identifying practical steps for their implementation.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the details of the enhanced leasing scheme by county; the number of units to be delivered under current agreements by county; the average cost for each unit per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
A range of housing options are necessary to ensure a supply of accommodation to meet different types of social housing need. Harnessing the off-balance sheet potential of private investment in social housing is an important objective of the Government and the social housing targets set out in Rebuilding Ireland over the period to 2021 reflect the ambition in that regard.
Of the 50,000 social housing homes to be delivered under Rebuilding Ireland, 10,000 are targeted to be leased by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) under leasing arrangements from a range of different sources, including the Repair and Lease Scheme (RLS), the existing social housing leasing arrangements, and the new Enhanced Lease Scheme. All homes delivered under leasing arrangements will be funded under the Department’s Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP).
It is intended that just over 2,000 units will be leased by Local Authorities in 2019 through a combination of longterm leasing arrangements, including the Enhanced Leasing Scheme.
The Enhanced Leasing Scheme has been developed by my Department, together with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), the Housing Agency and local authorities, in order to harness the potential of private sector interest in social housing delivery in a new set of long-term leasing arrangements, in a manner designed to leverage off-balance sheet funding opportunities in accordance with Rebuilding Ireland objectives. The Scheme is targeted at new build or new to the market properties to be delivered at scale and will complement the existing long-term leasing arrangements, which will continue to be available. There are, however, a number of key differences between the standard long term lease and the enhanced lease, the purpose of which is to facilitate larger levels of private investment in social housing while ensuring that the capital investment is off balance sheet in respect of Government expenditure.
The scheme is governed by my Department and operated by local authorities. The Housing Agency manages and administers the scheme on behalf of my Department and will act as a national co-ordinator.
Two Calls for Proposals were run for interested parties during 2018; the first from January to April and the second from August to October. A significant number of potential properties were submitted for consideration by interested parties, in over 40 no. full submissions. A large number of these submissions did not meet the minimum requirements of the scheme, which included having appropriate planning permission in place and suitability for social housing. 3 proposals are currently at an advanced stage of the financial and associated diligence process, and are moving towards Agreement for Lease stage. Detailed information with respect to the numbers and locations of the units proposed for leasing under the Scheme will only be available once the individual proposals have been fully cleared and accepted in accordance with the terms and methodology set out in the Calls for Proposals documents and the respective Local Authorities have signed any Agreements for Lease arising.
The scheme is now open on an ongoing basis from Q1 2019
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if the pyrite remediation scheme will be expanded to include houses damaged by pyrite in the blockwork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board, and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme to be implemented by the Board with support from the Housing Agency. The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” for affected homeowners who have no other practical option to obtain redress, and is limited in its application and scope. The full conditions for eligibility under the scheme are set out on the Pyrite Remediation Board’s website at https://www.pyriteboard.ie/.
The provisions of the Act apply only to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyritic heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material, and not to damage arising in any other circumstance, e.g. such as pyrite in concrete blocks. It is not intended at this time to include houses damaged by pyrite in the blockwork in the pyrite remediation scheme.
It should be noted that an Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks was established by my Department in 2016, to investigate problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in counties Donegal and Mayo. Under Budget 2019, the Government approved in principle the development of a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the two counties to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks. My Department is liaising with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the development of such a scheme.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount of capital advance leasing facility funding provided to approved housing bodies by county per annum since its inception for housing unit acquisition; the number of units acquired by county per annum since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount of capital advance leasing facility funding provided to AHBs by county basis per annum since its inception for housing unit construction; the number of units constructed under CALF by county per annum since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount of capital advance leasing facility funding provided to AHBs by county per annum since its inception for housing unit refurbishment; the number of units refurbished under CALF by county per annum since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount of capital advance leasing facility funding applications received from approved housing bodies by county basis per annum since its inception; the number approved; the number of housing units associated with the application; the number refused; the number of housing units associated with the application; the number with additional information requests; the number of housing units associated with the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) are making an important contribution to social housing delivery, as envisaged in Rebuilding Ireland. My Department and local authorities administer a number of funding programmes to assist AHBs with the cost of building, buying and leasing new social houses. All funding is conditional on the properties being made available to households on local authority waiting lists.
Under the Social Housing Current Expenditure Programme (SHCEP), my Department, together with local authorities, can support AHBs to construct, purchase or lease housing units and make them available for social housing. The housing units are secured under long-term leases/availability arrangements between local authorities and AHBs, the cost of which is recouped to local authorities by my Department. The Capital Advance Leasing Facility (CALF) funding is capital support provided to AHBs by local authorities to facilitate the funding of construction, acquisition or refurbishment of new social housing units, including units acquired through the establishment of the Housing Agency Acquisition Fund.
The capital advance is repayable by the AHB to the local authority at the end of a payment and availability agreement, usually 30 years. All proposals for CALF are submitted to my Department by AHBs for review, to ensure that each project complies with the terms of the CALF and that there are sufficient funds available.
To date, 26 AHBs have availed of CALF to secure homes for social housing use. Funding eligibility is aligned to those AHBs signed up to and demonstrating compliance with the Voluntary Regulation Code.
The CALF scheme delivers housing through close collaboration between AHBs and local authorities. This collaborative approach ensures that there is local authority support for the project prior to submission to my Department. Applications for funding for a scheme or individual homes, which have not progressed, may have fallen out of the process for various reasons and applications may also be resubmitted with revisions or by another AHB. Some 1,000 applications (with some 12,000 associated dwellings) for CALF have been made since 2011.
The CALF was introduced on 24 June 2011 and only a small number of AHBs availed of the facility during the period 2011 to 2013, delivering a total of 498 additional social housing homes under the scheme. Only over the last number of years has the sector moved to accessing private funding/ borrowing and moving away from full exchequer support. Since 2014, the number of homes delivered using CALF support has increased significantly year on year, along with Exchequer funding to support AHBs to access finance for the provision of new social housing. CALF expenditure in 2018 was €120.8 million; this included €2.18 million, which was offset against Local Property Tax funding, and 2,315 additional social housing homes were completed in 2018, as a result of CALF assistance. A provision of €94.4 million has been provided for the scheme in 2019.
At the end of Q4 2018, there were some 3,600 homes in the CALF acquisition and build pipeline, which will be delivered out to 2022. To date €220 million had been loaned by local authorities to AHBs and a further €231 million has been approved for lending but has not been drawn down.
Owing to the nature of the CALF scheme, home delivery does not always arise in the same year as expenditure being incurred. Schemes delivered under phased programmes may cross a number of payment periods.
Details of the annual social housing output for each of the local authority areas, as well as the specific output under each of the funding programmes, are available on my Department's website at the following link:
All Parliamentary Questions I make about Housing, Planning and Local Government and their answers can be viewed in this section