Header Item Written Answers Nos. 249-262
 Header Item Library Services
 Header Item Turf Cutting
 Header Item Housing Adaptation Grant Expenditure
 Header Item Housing Assistance Payments Eligibility
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration
 Header Item Irish Water Staff
 Header Item Tenancy Protection Scheme
 Header Item Homeless Accommodation Provision
 Header Item Wind Energy Guidelines
 Header Item Irish Water Administration
 Header Item National Planning Framework
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Data

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 941 No. 3
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 113 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 249-262

Library Services

 249. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has considered re-evaluating the criteria for tendering and considered the regionalisation of tenders to allow booksellers and local library sellers a chance to compete (details supplied). [11783/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department has no role in relation to the procurement of book-stock for public libraries. The provision of public library services, including the procurement of books, is a matter for each local authority in its capacity as a library authority under the Local Government Act 2001. A national tender for book- stock procurement was run recently by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) on behalf of local authorities. All matters related to the tender process were managed by the LGMA with support from the e Education Procurement Service. My Department had no direct role in this regard and, therefore, has no authority to intervene in what was an independent procurement process.

  Arrangements have been put in place by bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information by those bodies directly to members of the Oireachtas. Accordingly, any information sought in respect of the tender process can be sought directly from the LGMA at corporate@lgma.ie.

Turf Cutting

 250. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when legislation governing peat extraction is due before the Houses of the Oireachtas to provide clarity for the EPA to monitor same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11923/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is currently progressing draft Regulations under the European Communities Act 1972 that will establish a new regulatory regime in respect of large-scale peat extraction. Under the new regime, the Environmental Protection Agency will be required to carry out an environmental impact assessment as part of its examination of licence applications for existing and new peat extraction of 30 hectares or more. Interested parties and stakeholders were consulted on the draft Regulations in October 2016. These draft Regulations are now being further reviewed in the light of the comments received, with a view to finalising them as soon as possible.

Housing Adaptation Grant Expenditure

 251. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the expenditure on the housing adaptation grant scheme from 2011 to date; the cost of restoring expenditure to 2011 levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12011/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Information on the exchequer funding provided by my Department to each local authority for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/social-and-affordble/other-local-authority-housing-scheme-statistics  .

  These figures were supplemented by a 20% contribution in each case from the resources of the local authority.   

  The total funding allocation announced for these grants in 2016 was €56.25m nationally. As the total funding provided in 2011 was €76m, additional funding of almost € 20m would be required to restore funding to that level. This would consist of almost €16m exchequer funding and €4m from the resources of the local authorities. I am aware of the social benefit accruing from these grants in terms of facilitating the continued independent occupancy of their own homes by older people and people with a disability and further funding increases will be provided to achieve the annual target, set in Rebuilding Ireland, of supporting 10,000 households under these grants.

Housing Assistance Payments Eligibility

 252. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a single person that has access or joint custody of a child or children can access the family rate of the housing assistance payment. [11182/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, a household is defined as a person living alone, or two or more persons, who in the opinion of the local authority concerned, have a reasonable requirement to live together. Under the 2009 Act, it is also a matter for each housing authority to decide on the type of social housing support to be allocated or provided to individual households. In the case of the provision of social housing support under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, the maximum prescribed HAP rent limits are defined by a number of household classes, as provided for under section 43 of the 2014 Act. As the housing authority, it is a matter for the local authority to determine the household class and level of support that should be applied in respect of a household that has been assessed as having a housing need.

Factors such as legally provided for custodial and access arrangements that may be in place will be considered in this context. As Minister, I am precluded by the 2009 Act from intervening in relation to the procedures followed, or decisions made, by housing authorities in the assessment of households, the allocation of particular dwellings and the provision of social housing supports.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

 253. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the situation and prospects for funding in 2017 of the Milltown group sewerage scheme in Monaghan (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11203/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department’s new Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2016-2018 includes funding for group sewerage schemes, through Measure 4(d), where clustering of households on individual septic tanks is not a viable option, particularly from an environmental perspective. Local authorities were invited in January 2016 to submit bids under the programme. The invitation envisaged no more than two demonstration group sewerage schemes being brought forward under the measure in any one year of the three year programme. The demonstrations will allow my Department, over the course of the programme, to determine the appropriate enduring funding levels and relationship with the current grant scheme. A proposed Milltown Group Sewerage Scheme was included by Monaghan County Council in its bids under the measure. In total, 83 Bids were received from 17 Local Authorities requesting funding under this measure.

  An Expert Panel was convened by my Department to examine the 2016 bids from local authorities for projects under a number of the programme’s measures, including Measure 4(d), and to make recommendations to the Department on funding. The Panel recommended a priority list, including the Milltown scheme at priority five, to my Department, which accepted the recommendations in full when approving the rural water allocations for 2016.

  As only two demonstration group sewerage schemes can be advanced in any given year, funding will not be available to Monaghan County Council for the Milltown scheme until 2018 unless a scheme prioritised higher than Milltown is not be in a position to be advanced this year, whereby the Milltown scheme would be given a higher priority.

  It is intended to make interim funding allocations under the programme to the local authorities by the end of March 2017 and any reprioritisation of the Milltown scheme would be notified Monaghan County Council at this time.

  A copy of the Expert Panel's report and consideration of all proposals under the Programme for 2016 for are available on my Department’s website at the following link:

  http://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/rural-water-programme/group-water-schemes-and-rural-water-issues.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration

 254. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will address the anomalies in the tenant purchase scheme, in particular the exclusion of Part V dwellings, in view of the fact that tenants that made applications and took occupancy of houses on the basis that they could purchase their home are now excluded from doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11238/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 governing the Scheme provides for a number of specified classes of houses to be excluded from sale, including houses provided to Local Authorities under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, houses specifically designed for older persons, group Traveller housing and houses provided to facilitate people with disabilities transferring from institutional care to community-based living.

  Part V housing units are among the classes of house excluded from the tenant purchase scheme, and this is to ensure that units delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support, and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed tenure, sustainable communities.

  In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a review of the first 12 months of the scheme’s operation is currently being undertaken by my Department. To inform the review, a public consultation was undertaken, with a closing date for submissions of 10 February 2017. I expect this re view to be completed by the end of Quarter 1 2017. Any changes to the terms and conditions of the scheme which are considered necessary based on the evidence gathered will be brought forward.

Irish Water Staff

 255. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if Irish Water or local authorities are responsible for the payment of superannuation benefits for local authority employees transferred to Irish Water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11239/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Irish Water has entered into service level agreements (SLA) with each of the 31 authorities for the provision of water services. Staff in local authorities working under these arrangements remain local authority employees. The SLA reflects the transformation agenda required for the water sector and makes provision for annual service plans to be agreed between Irish Water and the relevant local authority setting out the required performance, budgets and headcount to deliver the service. The length of the service level agreement and the fact that the agreement will include a programme of change are reflected in a Framework document, agreed with the Trade Unions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. This agreement and the Water Services (No.2) Act 2013 provide that, in the event of an SLA coming to an end, the staff covered by the SLA will become Irish Water employees and their terms and conditions and superannuation arrangements will be protected by legislation. 

Local authority staff who have taken up employment with Irish Water were, until January 2017, working on a secondment basis pending the establishment of the superannuation arrangements provided for under the Water Services (No.2) Act 2013. Those arrangements are now in place and such staff are now directly employed by Irish Water who has responsibility for their superannuation entitlements under the Irish Water Defined Benefit Scheme. Superannuation entitlements related to their previous employment with a local authority are the responsibility of that local authority as provided for under the Irish Water (Previous Service) Superannuation Scheme 2016 (S.I. No. 57 of 2016).

Tenancy Protection Scheme

 256. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the way in which he proposes to regulate the rent a room scheme in view of the fact there is very little regulation in place in this sector to protect tenants renting rooms in such properties. [11245/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 regulates the tenant-landlord relationship in the private rented residential sector. The Act applies to every dwelling that is the subject of a tenancy, subject to a limited number of exceptions. The dwellings to which the Act does not apply are set out in section 3(2) of the Act. Where the owner of a dwelling, residing in that dwelling, lets a room, that letting is not considered to be a tenancy within the meaning of the Residential Tenancies Act. I have no plans at this time to amend the Act in this regard but will keep the matter under review.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

 257. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney further to Parliamentary Question No. 17 of 23 February 2017, if the supported temporary accommodation initiatives being pursued by housing authorities for housing homeless families will include hostel type accommodation or congregated settings; his views on the appropriateness of such accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11303/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of homeless services, including accommodation, rests with individual housing authorities, in the first instance. My Department will continue to engage proactively with the Dublin local authorities in relation to funding the delivery of a range of identified temporary accommodation arrangements for homeless families which, while clearly an intervention of a temporary duration only, are considered to have the potential to provide improved supported family living arrangements compared to hotel accommodation, while longer term sustainable accommodation solutions are identified for the families concerned.

Wind Energy Guidelines

 258. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a strategic environment assessment is required in respect of drafting new guidelines for the wind energy industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11316/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In light of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to finalise the review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines and on-going policy and legal developments in this area, my Department is continuing to advance work on the proposed revisions to the Guidelines and related matters in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, in order to bring the various issues to a conclusion as early as possible. I expect to be in a position to make a statement on the matter in the coming weeks, outlining the timelines for implementation of the various elements. As part of the overall review, and with regard to the recent ECJ Judgement in Case C-290/15 on the Belgian/Wallonian wind energy guidelines, it is proposed to undertake a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the proposed revisions to the 2006 Guidelines - in accordance with the requirements of Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment - before they are finalised.

Irish Water Administration

 259. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if payment of domestic water charges to Irish Water is a criteria for eligibility for the current tenant purchase scheme; if so, the rationale for this criteria; the reason this criteria was included while other utility debts such as for gas and electricity were not; and if he is reviewing this criteria in the current review of the tenant purchase scheme. [11331/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. Under Section 3(A)(9) of the Water Services Act 2014 (inserted by Section 48 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015), a person who is a tenant of a dwelling let to him/her under the Housing Acts 1966 to 2014 and who proposes to purchase the dwelling shall, before completion of the sale, provide the local authority concerned with a certificate of discharge from Irish Water confirming that any charge under section 21 of the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 in respect of the dwelling owed to Irish Water has been paid. The sale of the dwelling cannot proceed until a certificate of discharge in respect of the dwelling has been received from Irish Water.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2016 suspends charges for a period of nine months, commencing on 1 July 2016 and ending on 31 March 2017.  This Act provides that any period of suspension of domestic water charges shall not count towards the time period for the calculation of late payment charges in respect of unpaid water bills. However, arrears of water charges incurred by households remain to be discharged.

Therefore, under the current legislative framework, tenants who propose to purchase a property under the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme must provide a certificate of discharge from Irish Water confirming charges up to 30 June 2016 have been paid.

In line with the commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a review of the first 12 months of the scheme’s operation is currently being undertaken by my Department. To inform the review, a public consultation was undertaken, with a closing date for submissions of 10 February 2017. Any changes to the terms and conditions of the scheme which are considered necessary based on the evidence gathered will be brought forward.

I expect the review to be completed on schedule by the end of Quarter 1 2017.

National Planning Framework

 260. Deputy Mary Butler Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the total cost of marketing for the Ireland 2040 campaign; the details of any payments made to persons to act on behalf of the campaign to promote it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11347/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The development of the Ireland 2040 - Our Plan: National Planning Framework (NPF), one of the most strategically important public policy exercises currently underway by the Government, must be collaborative in nature, given that its ultimate success will depend on the degree to which all citizens and stakeholders have the opportunity to have their say on how Ireland should develop over the next twenty years or more, and how we can plan for and accommodate the substantial additional population expected by 2040 in a more strategic and sustainable way. With regard to associated awareness raising and promotion activities, a number of initiatives have been put in place providing both fora and points of contact for feedback. For example, a dedicated website - www.npf.ie - and email address- npf@housing.gov.ie - have been established. The website will be one of the main platforms for ensuring the public can be kept up to date over the life of the Plan and is seen as a long-term investment.   

  In addition to the standard provision of textual and graphic information to view and download, the website facilitates engagement with the general public through the use of easy to understand video presentations and social media which will be used and re-used throughout the process, bringing down costs. Total expenditure to date in these areas, including promotional material, graphic design and video, is €41,917, of which €1,624 was paid for voice-over work relating to the promotional video. Costs associated with the national and regional public consultation launches are being finalised at present.

  The outcome of the public consultation process on Ireland 2040 currently underway will feed into further analysis and evidence-based policy in formulating a draft Framework by the Summer. All efforts are being, and will continue to be, made to ensure that expenditure in connection with engagement on and development of the Plan is kept to the minimum possible, commensurate with the scale and long-term policy nature of the task in hand.

Local Authority Housing Data

 261. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of local authority houses built in County Donegal in each of the years 2007 to 2016, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11393/17]

 262. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of local authority houses to be built in County Donegal in each of the years 2017, 2018 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11394/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 and 262 together.

  Details on the number of properties constructed by all local authorities, including Donegal County Council, for letting to those on their social housing waiting lists are available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/social-and-affordble/overall-social-housing-provision. Information on quarter four of 2016 is currently being finalised and will be published shortly.

  A substantial pipeline of new social housing construction projects is already in place both in terms of local authority direct build and approved housing body projects. We are now seeing progress through this pipeline, as is evident in the Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report which I published on 20 February 2017.   

  The report contains a range of information , including projects delivered in 2016 and those at various stages of advancement through planning, design and construction. It also includes information such as local authority area, project name, AHB name where applicable, the number of units and the status of each application in terms of its current level of advancement. The report can be accessed at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/social-housing-developments/ .   

  I expect that a number of the projects listed for Donegal County Council will be completed in 2017 and others will commence on site during 2017, as well as in the subsequent years; the precise timing for the advancement of each of these projects is a matter for the Council, in the first instance. Further project approvals are being added to the published list as they are developed by Donegal County Council and the other local authorities and forwarded to my Department. I am keen that all local authorities advance their social housing projects as speedily as possible and I have assured them that funding is in place to support their activity in this regard.


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