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.
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