To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the funding status of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was launched on 1 February 2018 to replace the existing House Purchase and Home Choice Loan schemes, providing a new line of mortgage finance, including fixed rates over 25 to 30 years, to creditworthy first-time buyers who cannot access sufficient mortgage finance from commercial lender.
The HFA borrowed €200 million to fund the scheme, and it was estimated that the drawdown would be approximately €200 million over three years. Some criticism at the time was that insufficient loans were being approved and drawn down. However, as Minister I had made a commitment to seek further funding at an early stage, if necessary, given my belief in the scheme's potential.
The scheme has been more successful than anticipated, and by the end of January, €106m had been drawn down, accounting for 53% of the available funding, at a point at which €66m would have been more consistent with the expectation of a three year draw down period. By the end of March, draw downs have reached €127m.
My officials kept me informed regarding progress on the loan on a regular basis, and have been engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform since October 2018 when higher lending and drawdown volumes were beginning to materialise.
I informed the Dáil on 29 January 2019 of the scheme’s success and of the need for additional funding, and further indicated that my Department was in discussions with the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance with regard to the allocation for 2019. Local authorities could continue to accept applications as the total funding had not been drawn down. A meeting with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform took place on 5 March 2019.
Ongoing discussions between the three Departments have included consultation with the Central Bank as recently as last Friday, 5th April. When these discussions have concluded, I will be in a position to confirm the level of allocation for 2019. In the meantime, the scheme remains open and all local authorities have been advised to continue to receive and process applications.
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.
Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.
The 2011 Regulations 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.
Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.
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.
Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.
However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area 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 also 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.
New rural housing guidelines
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government when new rural housing guidelines will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Under the current 2005 Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, planning authorities are required to frame the planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way that ensures the housing needs of rural communities are met, while avoiding excessive urban-generated housing and haphazard development, particularly in those areas near cities and towns that are under pressure from urban generated development.
Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The working group comprises senior officials from the Planning Division of my Department and senior officials from the Planning Divisions of local authorities, nominated by the local government sector.
The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Planning authorities were advised in May 2017 by way of Circular Letter PL 02/2017, that the existing 2005 Guidelines remain in place, pending the issuing of the revised guidelines. The Circular also advised that they should not amend the rural housing local needs policies in their development plans until the revised Guidelines have issued.
The National Planning Framework (the NPF) also provides an important context for the finalisation of the revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines. National Policy Objective 15 of the NPF fully supports the concept of the sustainable development of rural areas by encouraging growth and arresting decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades, while simultaneously indicating the need to manage certain areas around cities and towns that are under strong urban influence and under pressure from uncoordinated and ribbon-type development, in order to avoid over-development of those areas.
Furthermore, National Policy Objective 37 of the NPF requires each local authority to carry out a Housing Need Demand Assessment (HNDA) in order to correlate and accurately align overall future housing requirements, as an evolution of their existing Housing Strategy requirements under Part V of the 2000 Act. This will assist local authorities in ensuring long-term strategic housing needs are met across all types, tenures and locations across their functional areas, both urban and rural. Accordingly, the NPF objectives are aligned with the approach already expected of planning authorities under the current 2005 Guidelines. My Department intends to provide further guidance to local authorities later this year, to support their HNDA work as part of the review of their Development Plans.
Taking account of the engagement with the European Commission regarding revisions to the 2005 Guidelines and subject to the completion of the ongoing deliberations by the working group, I will be in a position to finalise and issue to planning authorities revisions to the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines that take account of the relevant European Court of Justice judgment.
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 Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 set the commencement date as 1 January 2016 for the introduction of the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses.
The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.
In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.
Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review very shortly. Indeed, it is intended that a wider package of social housing reform measures will be brought to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the reason Ireland has not signed up to Article 31 of the European Social Charter; the work being undertaken to ensure that ratification of this article is being progressed; and when Ireland will be in a position to ratify the article.
Ireland ratified the Revised European Social Charter on 4 November 2000. At that time Ireland accepted 92 of the 98 paragraphs of the Revised Charter. Three of those paragraphs not accepted by Ireland make up Article 31, which relates to the right to housing.
The issue of the right to housing was debated in Dáil Eireann and Seanad Éireann in September 2017. Arising from this, a motion to refer the Eighth Report of the Convention on the Constitution, which dealt with economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to housing, to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach was passed by the Dáil on 28 September 2017 and by the Seanad on 11 October 2017.
The matter of ratifying Article 31 of the Revised European Social Charter will be considered further after the Joint Committee has considered the matter
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to extend the rent pressure zone designation periods beyond three years in Dublin and Cork from December 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
On 2 April 2019, Government approved committee stage amendments to the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2018, which will, among other measures, see the designation of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) extended to the end of 2021.
This Bill is scheduled for Dáil Committee Stage on 11 April 2019 and I will be working to have it complete its passage through both Houses as quickly as possible thereafter
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of local authority dwellings demolished in 2018 under Department approved schemes by local authority.
The majority of demolition work in relation to local authority dwellings is carried out as part of the National Regeneration Programme. My Department currently supports a programme of large-scale regeneration projects in Dublin, Cork and Limerick with smaller projects in Tralee, Sligo and Dundalk. Over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland, some €211 million is being made available under the National Regeneration Programme to support the direct delivery of over 1,000 new social housing homes.
Statistics in relation to the number of local authority owned dwellings and demolitions are compiled and published annually by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) in its annual reports on Performance Indicators in Local Authorities. The most recent NOAC annual report relates to 2017 and the report contains statistics for demolitions and planned demolitions on a local authority by local authority basis. This report is available on the NOAC website at the following link: http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NOAC-Performance-Indicators-Report-2017.pdf.
I understand the statistics in relation to 2018 are currently being compiled.
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