To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to reform the repair and lease scheme; the annual target for units; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) was initially piloted in Carlow and Waterford and the pilot has been rolled out nationally since 23 February 2017. The scheme is one of a suite of measures available to local authorities to bring vacant properties back into use.
Since the national roll out, my Department has been working intensively with local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to implement the scheme. There have been a number of national and local press advertising initiatives, as well as targeted online promotion, in an effort to ensure that property owners who can avail of the scheme are aware of the benefits.
By the end of 2017, a total of 820 applications had been received under the scheme. Local authorities were engaging with the property owners in relation to 573 properties, 31 agreements for lease had been signed and 9 social housing homes had been delivered and tenanted. A detailed breakdown of the RLS scheme data up to end Q4 2017 is available on my Department’s website at the following link:
The nature of the RLS means that the period leading up to the signing of contracts, which entails sourcing and inspecting the properties, and negotiation with owners, is the slowest part of the process. All local authorities are active in sourcing and identifying potential properties and it is expected that significant numbers of contracts will be entered into once that process is complete. Once contracts are signed, delivery is estimated at between 2 and 6 months, a fraction of the time involved for a capital acquisition or build project.
Feedback from local authorities indicates that, in many cases, properties requiring extensive repair work, and therefore not suitable for the RLS, have been secured under the Buy and Renew Scheme which facilitates local authorities or AHBs to purchase vacant properties for social housing use. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that the levels of vacancy recorded as part of Census 2016 have significantly reduced in the interim, particularly in urban areas like Dublin where many previously vacant homes have since been occupied.
It is clear that by the end of 2017, RLS had not yet delivered the level of new social housing homes envisaged. I reviewed the operation of the scheme, as part of the review of Rebuilding Ireland, and concluded that the scheme has significant potential but there are areas where it can be improved to make it more attractive and effective. Accordingly, from 1 February 2018, a number of key changes were made to the scheme. These include:
a reduction in the minimum lease term required from 10 to 5 years;
increasing the proportion of market rent available to property owners where they take on more responsibilities under the tenancy, meaning that up to 92% of market rent will be available; and
provision of additional funding for property owners, over and above the current €40,000 limit, where the dwelling is a bedsit type dwelling being brought into compliance with the Standards for Rented Houses Regulations and made available for social housing.
I am making €32 million available for the scheme in 2018 and I expect local authorities and AHBs to continue to implement the scheme locally.
Over the period 2016 to 2021, the national target is for the delivery of an additional 50,000 social housing homes through Build, Acquisition and Leasing Schemes. The ambition is for 33,500 of these homes to be delivered through new build programmes including Part V; for 6,500 to be delivered through Acquisition programmes including the Housing Agency Acquisition Programme; and for the remaining 10,000 homes to be delivered under a range of leasing initiatives including the RLS. It is expected that the RLS will deliver up to 3,500 homes over the lifetime of Rebuilding Ireland, with a target of 800 to be delivered in 2018.
In January 2018, I asked all local authorities to provide a detailed report of their social housing delivery profiles out to 2021. These returns are currently being analysed with a view to issuing local authority targets under the heading of Build, Acquisition and Leasing very shortly.
The number of applications that have been procesed and approved under the Rebuilding Ireland homeloan scheme.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of applications that have been processed and approved under the Rebuilding Ireland homeloan scheme since it was launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of applications received and approved under the Rebuilding Ireland scheme by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of applicants for the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; the number of successful applicants; the value of loans distributed to date for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, was introduced on 1 February 2018.
As with the previous local authority home loan offerings, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a local authority product and loan applications are made directly to the local authority in whose area the property proposed for purchase is situated. My Department does not collect information on the number of enquiries to local authorities regarding the loan, the number of complete loan applications received by local authorities, or the reasons as to why a loan application may be declined.
As is currently the case, my Department will continue to publish information on the overall number and value of (1) local authority loan approvals and (2) local authority loan drawdowns on its website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity.
This information is currently updated to end Q3 2017; it is anticipated that Q4 data will be published shortly.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to extend the loan interest rates currently available under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan to existing local authority mortgage holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to enable existing local authority mortgage holders to avail of new interest rates in the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Following a review of the two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan was introduced, with effect from 1 February 2018. The new loan enables credit-worthy first-time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range. The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first-time buyers with access to mortgage finance that they may not have otherwise been able to afford at a higher interest rate.
As with previous local authority house purchase loan finance, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first-time buyers only. This is to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources and there is no change in this regard.
The low interest rates for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan have been secured through the raising of €200 million by the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) on a fixed-rate basis for periods out to thirty years' maturity. Based on the pricing achieved, local authorities can offer a first tranche of fixed-rate annuity finance to eligible borrowers at rates of 2.0% and 2.25% per annum, for terms of up to 25 and 30 years respectively, up to an aggregate maximum of €200 million.
As such, these conditions are solely available to new applicants under the specific terms and conditions of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. Existing local authority mortgage holders remain subject to the terms and conditions of their loans as originally agreed at the point of drawdown of their individual loans.
Will a review of the pyrite remediation scheme be carried out with a view of including all homes with a category one rating in the scheme.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if a review of the pyrite remediation scheme will be carried out with a view to including all homes with a category one rating in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the definition of his Department's view of the exceptional circumstances clause when accessing appeals of refusals for applications to the pyrite remediation scheme; 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 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. 398-1:2013 - 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. I have no proposals to amend this eligibility criterion.
Where a dwelling, otherwise not eligible for inclusion in the scheme, adjoins a dwelling already included in the scheme, such a dwelling may be considered in accordance with the exceptional circumstance provisions set out in section 17 of the Act. Section 17 provides that exceptional circumstances may apply where -
- failure to include a dwelling in the scheme may result in damage to that dwelling or damage to the dwelling being remediated under the scheme, or
- pyrite remediation work is causing or may cause damage to a dwelling.
The Housing Agency will consider if exceptional circumstances apply when the Remedial Works Plan is being drawn up and the Board will be informed of any recommendation for a decision in the matter. To date, no dwellings have been included in the pyrite remediation scheme under the exceptional circumstances provisions of the Act. My Department is in regular contact with the Board and the Housing Agency in relation to the implementation of the scheme and is satisfied with the arrangements that are currently in place, including in relation to appeals.
The Report of the Pyrite Panel (June 2012) recommended a categorisation system as a means of prioritising pyrite remediation works in recognition of the expensive and intrusive nature of pyrite remediation and the unpredictability of pyritic heave. The independent Pyrite Panel was clear in its view that only dwellings with significant damage due to pyritic heave should be remediated and that it would be unreasonable to expect dwellings not exhibiting such damage to be remediated.
Dwellings which have no significant damage but have reactive pyrite in the hardcore material should be monitored and only remediated if they display significant damage due to pyritic heave. This remains the position with regard to dwellings which do not display significant pyritic damage.
On foot of this recommendation of the Pyrite Panel, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) published I.S. 398-1:2013 Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol in 2013.The standard provides the means by which dwellings that may be affected by pyrite can be tested and categorised.
In late 2015, the NSAI commenced a review of I.S. 398-1:2013 in the light of practical experience since the standard was first introduced in January 2013. The standard was updated and revised to reflect the on-site experiences and evidence gathered by technical experts, such as engineers, geologists, professionals providing sampling and testing services and other technical experts, who have been using the standard over the past four years and was published on 4 August 2017.
I welcome the revised standard published by the NSAI and in this context I signed the Pyrite Resolution (Standard for Testing) Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 556 of 2017) on 6 December 2017. These Regulations provide that pursuant to section 14(9)(a) of the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013, the “standard for testing” for the purpose of the Act shall be Irish Standard 398-1:2017 Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material —Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol, as published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland on 4 August 2017.
Any amendments which the Pyrite Resolution Board consider are required to the scheme as a result of the revised standard will be given full consideration should they be submitted to me in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
The latest figures available indicate that a total of 2,031 applications have been received under the pyrite remediation scheme. Of the 2,031 applications received so far, 1,594 dwellings have been included in the pyrite remediation scheme and the applicants notified accordingly.
A further 85 applications have been validated and referred to the Housing Agency for the Assessment and Verification Process, while another 225 applications are at the initial Application and Validation Process. 127 applications under the scheme were not successful.
Of the 1,594 dwellings that have been included in the pyrite remediation scheme:
- 284 are at remedial works planning stage,
- 85 are at tender / tender analysis,
- 208 are under remediation, and
- 1,017 are complete.
A sum of €30 million was announced under Budget 2018 to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme this year. This allocation will facilitate the remediation of some 430 additional dwellings and is a clear signal of the continuing importance attached by Government to addressing the issue of significant pyritic damage in private dwellings.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section