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.
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