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 by the Oireachtas Committee on the 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 research matters it should be noted that funding for the EPA's research programme on climate, sustainability and water is allocated under the Vote of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. Proposals in relation to water related research are evaluated by the Water Research Co-ordination Group, which includes representation from my Department together with other relevant Departments and agencies and which takes on board national policy on water conservation as set out in the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, which in turn takes account of 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.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the new guidelines being issued in regard to local housing assessment needs in each local authority as outlined under the new National Planning Framework; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The preparation, in the context of National Policy Objective 37 of the National Planning Framework (NPF), of a "Housing Need and Demand Assessment" (HNDA) for each local authority area, will be important in estimating likely future housing need. Work on this process has commenced in my Department, which includes the establishment of an expert advisory group.
An evidence-based approach will form the basis of a more accurate and consistent projection of demand for different tenures, types and sizes of housing, including specialist housing need. The HNDA methodology will comprise guidance and an assessment tool, that will inform local authority Housing Strategy requirements.
As well as assisting local authorities in ensuring that long-term strategic housing needs are planned for and can met, the HNDA process will also inform the preparation of City and County Development Plans, and in particular their core strategy requirements.
Work on guidance for local authorities in this regard is being undertaken in conjunction with a parallel set of updated guidance on the preparation of Development Plans, many of which are due to commence variation or review in the coming months.
It is of note that an aggregate view of HNDAs will assist in forming a national picture and reporting overall, including, in particular, monitoring and assessing delivery and performance in line with national objectives. It is intended that draft guidance on both HNDA and Development Plans will be available for consideration by the end of the year.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the headquarters, number of staff, estimated full staff complement of the Office of the Planning Regulator; when it will be fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) is currently based in temporarily leased office accommodation located at 77 Sir John Rogerson's Quay in Dublin 2 and will be moving to premises on the North Circular Road in the coming months.
The OPR currently employs 17 staff including the Chief Executive, and will have a full staff complement of 21 once recruitment is concluded in the near future.
The Planning Regulator is currently responsible for assessment of all local authority and regional assembly forward planning, including zoning decisions. The Regulator has been tasked with ensuring that planning authorities are operating with the highest standards of integrity and best practice, giving the public confidence that important planning decisions are taken in line with national policy.
The Regulator has the power to review the organisation, systems and procedures used by any planning authority or An Bord Pleanála and I understand he will be commencing his Programme of Reviews in early 2020.
Additionally, the OPR will drive national research, education and public information programmes to highlight the role and benefit of planning. A new training programme for elected representatives will be launched this week and is intended to provide elected members with enhanced knowledge of the planning process, reaffirming their roles and responsibilities within the planning system and their functions in relation to ensuring proper planning and sustainable development.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the status of measures he has taken to introduce a BER style water conservation rating for buildings in line with the recommendations by the Oireachtas Committee on the 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 by the Oireachtas Committee on the 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.
In relation to the specific recommendations relating to the introduction of a BER style water conservation rating for buildings, and measures to promote water conservation systems, I look forward in due course to receiving the advice of An Fóram Uisce in relation to further practical steps that may be taken in response to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee's Report. This forms part of the work programme of An Fóram.
The issue of a rating system is just one element of promoting water conservation. Reflecting the provisions contained in the Water Services Act 2017 and, in line with the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Water Services Policy Statement supports the promotion of water conservation and water resource management as an important element of water services policy that is reflected in strategic investment planning by Irish Water. For the period of the Policy Statement, this involves 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).
It should be noted that in July 2019, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) announced its final determination, following a comprehensive public consultation process, on the new excessive usage charges and charging arrangements that will apply to domestic households deemed to be using water services excessively i.e. using water services above the annual threshold allowance of 213,000 litres per household. The charges and charging arrangements now in place are consistent with the comprehensive overview set out in my letter of 15 July 2019 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.
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 also 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.
In addition, Irish Water has undertaken a research study to provide an in-depth understanding of household water usage. The findings, which show that, in general, people agree with the need to value and conserve water, will help guide the roll out of product and behavioural interventions to improve water conservation in Ireland.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the additional resources allocated to local authorities with rent pressure zones for short-term letting regulation arising from the 1 July 2019 introduction of new rules in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department has been in regular contact with relevant planning authorities regarding the implementation of the new short-term letting legislation, both before and subsequent to its commencement on 1 July 2019.
In order for the new legislation to have the desired effect and achieve its objective of returning much-needed accommodation to the long-term rental market, it is essential that relevant planning authorities adopt a pro-active approach to enforcement. This will add to the planning enforcement workload of the affected planning authorities, necessitating dedicated additional staffing and complementary resources.
In this regard, my Department wrote to planning authorities on 4 June 2019 seeking estimated resource funding requirements for the implementation and enforcement of the new provisions. My Department wrote again to planning authorities on 2 July and 26 September seeking new or revised estimates following my designation of additional Rent Pressure Zones in certain parts of the country, which extended the application of the short-term letting provisions to these areas.
Since then, further communication has taken place between my Department and all relevant planning authorities seeking clarification and refinement of the resourcing requests, as well as in relation to the practical implementation of the short-term letting provisions.
My Department is actively engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to securing the required sanctions to provide funding to local authorities to facilitate the wider implementation and enforcement of the short-term letting regulations.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of units to be provided through the enhanced long-term social housing leasing scheme by county in 2019; 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 that are set out in Rebuilding Ireland over the period to 2021 reflect the ambition in that regard.
My Department has introduced the Enhanced Long Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme in order to target newly built or yet to be built houses and apartments for long term leasing, and to target property developers and investors who are in a position to deliver housing at a reasonable scale in order to supplement delivery under Pillar 2 of Rebuilding Ireland.
The first call for proposals for the Enhanced Leasing Scheme was open from January to April 2018 and a total of 33 submissions were received. The second call for proposals closed on 25th October 2018 and a total of 22 submissions were received.
The first Agreement for Lease was signed by Dublin City Council in Q2 2019 for 23 new social housing homes, with expected delivery in 2020. A number of other proposals are currently in the due diligence or proposal stage.
My Department and the Housing Agency continue to work with local authorities and proposers in respect of the Enhanced Leasing Scheme, and the leasing schemes generally, in order to ensure maximum delivery of high quality leased properties to meet the needs of households on social housing waiting lists. To this end, the Enhanced Long-Term Social Housing Leasing Scheme is in full operation and accepting proposals, complementing the range of other delivery mechanisms operated by my Department, and it is expected that further Agreements for Lease will be signed by the end of 2019.
The Enhanced Leasing Scheme is one of a number of social housing leasing schemes operated by my Department under the Rebuilding Ireland programme, designed to increase the general supply of social housing in an off-balance sheet manner. These schemes are collectively generating significant interest and progress on leasing generally is tracked on the Rebuilding Ireland status reports published on a quarterly basis, which are available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount allocated to the pyrite remediation scheme and expended, respectively in each of the years 2013 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the amount allocated to the pyrite remediation scheme for 2019; the amount spent to date; the projected underspend or overspend at year end; 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 was first adopted in February 2014.
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.
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 in the scheme which is available on the Board’s website, www.pyriteboard.ie.
The scheme is applicable to dwellings which are subject to significant damage attributable to pyritic heave, established in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2017 - Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material – Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol. In this regard, it is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment with a Damage Condition Rating of 2. Dwellings which do not have a Damage Condition Rating of 2 are not eligible to apply under the scheme. This ensures that, having regard to the available resources, the focus of the scheme is on dwellings which are most severely damaged by pyritic heave.
Some €2.2 million was provided to the Housing Agency in 2014 to meet expenditure incurred under the scheme in respect of design work, contractors, expenses to homeowners, operational costs, and the administrative costs to the Housing Agency. The remediation of 5 dwellings was completed in the final quarter of that year.
An additional sum of €10 million was made available in Budget 2015 to fund the operation of the scheme in 2015, when a further 148 dwellings had remedial works completed under the scheme.
€26.6 million was provided for the scheme in 2016. Some 400 dwellings were remediated under the scheme in 2016 giving an aggregate total of 553 dwellings completed since the scheme was first introduced.
In 2017, some €25 million was provided, facilitating the remediation of some 400 additional dwellings, giving an aggregate total of 945 dwellings completed from when the scheme was first introduced up to the end of 2017.
A sum of €30 million was announced under Budget 2018 to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme in 2018. This allocation facilitated the remediation of some 430 additional dwellings in 2018 giving an aggregate total of 1,378 dwellings completed since the scheme was first introduced in February 2014. The total allocation was expended in each of the years 2014 to 2018.
The latest figures available indicate that 2,473 applications have been received under the pyrite remediation scheme. Of these, 2,003 dwellings have been included in the scheme and the applicants notified accordingly. A further 87 applications have been validated and referred to the Housing Agency for the Assessment and Verification Process, while another 219 applications are at the initial Application and Validation Process. 164 applications under the scheme were not successful.
Of the 2,003 dwellings that have been included in the pyrite remediation scheme:
55 are at remedial works planning stage,
7 are at tender / tender analysis,
247 are under remediation, and
1,694 are complete.
A sum of €32 million is available to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme this year, of which €22 million has been drawn down by the Housing Agency to date. I understand that the Housing Agency estimate that a minimum of €30 million will be drawn down by the end of 2019. This will facilitate the remediation of some 460 additional dwellings. This will bring to approximately €126m the total funding provided under the scheme since 2014.
Ultimately, the Pyrite Resolution Board, together with the Housing Agency, will arrange for all eligible dwellings to be remediated to a high standard and at no additional cost to the affected homeowners. Remediation works will continue to be carried out at the earliest possible opportunity having regard to the existing demands of the scheme and the optimum use of available resources.
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