Header Item Written Answers Nos 286-292
 Header Item Rent Controls
 Header Item Mortgage Lending
 Header Item Homelessness Strategy
 Header Item Land Availability
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 961 No. 3
Unrevised

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Written Answers Nos 286-292

Questions Nos. 286 and 287 answered with Question No. 275.

Rent Controls

 288. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the measures he is taking to bring rents down to affordable levels for persons on low incomes, in particular in Dublin and other urban districts; the way in which rents will be reduced in 2018 across the areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47471/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, recommended the introduction of a Rent Predictability Measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising - where households have greatest difficulties in finding accommodation they can afford. The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 provided for the Rent Predictability Measure and for areas, called Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), where rents can now only rise by a maximum of 4% annually for a period of 3 years.

This measure was implemented immediately in the four Dublin local authority areas and in Cork City as these areas already met the criteria for a Rent Pressure Zone in December 2016. A further 12 Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) were designated in January 2017, with the measure further extended to Maynooth and Cobh LEAs in March 2017 and to Drogheda and Greystones LEAs in September 2017.

The data collected by the Residential Tenancies Board to produce its Rent Index Data shows that although there is still volatility in rental trends from quarter to quarter, the rate of increase in rents has slowed measurably since the designation of RPZs.

In addition a number of significant changes are being made to the Rent Pressure Zone system following a recent review. Charging rents above those permitted by the legislation will become an offence and the RTB will be provided with the powers to investigate and prosecute transgressors so that it will no longer be solely up to the tenant to initiate a dispute. The conditions under which properties can be exempted from the rent increase limits will be more closely specified and landlords will have to notify the RTB when claiming an exemption. These changes will strengthen the impact of the Rent Predictability Measure and will further slow the growth in rents.

To deal with the issue of affordable rents on a longer term and sustainable basis, my Department, reflecting the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government and the Strategy for the Rental Sector, will lead an Expert Group to develop a viable cost rental model for the Irish rental sector taking into account the work already completed in this area, including by the National Economic and Social Council and others. This Group will address issues such as funding mechanisms, the need to grow the necessary institutional capacity, particularly within the AHB and not-for-profit sector (whether through mergers, new entrants or strategic partnerships), rent levels, the households to be targeted and the appropriate regulation mechanisms.

The Expert Group will assess the benefits that a larger and more developed not-for-profit segment would bring to the rental sector and the housing system, by increasing supply of rental accommodation for low to middle-income households and ensuring new capacity is developed. Following the conclusion of the focused review of Rebuilding Ireland, it is my intention to establish this Expert Group in the coming weeks. A proposal regarding its membership and terms of reference is currently being finalised in my Department.

Mortgage Lending

 289. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the measures he is taking to address the anomaly whereby persons on certain social protection payments are excluded from accessing mortgages through their local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47472/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The terms and conditions governing the operation of the standard annuity House Purchase Loan provided by local authorities to first-time buyers are set out most recently in the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 408 of 2012). To support local authorities in operating their housing loan scheme in a consistent and efficient manner, the Housing Agency provides a central credit assessment service to local authorities. The final decision on loan approval is a matter for the relevant local authority and its credit committee on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the relevant statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with this statutory credit policy in order to ensure prudence and consistency in approaches in the best interests of both borrowers and local authorities as lenders alike.

The Local Authority House Purchase Loan is not, as a general rule, available to those whose sole income relies on social welfare benefits. However, where there is a primary income of a permanent waged or salaried nature and where the secondary income is from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), then long-term social welfare payments can be considered, provided that the long-term nature of the payment is confirmed by the DEASP or other relevant Government Department.

Homelessness Strategy

 290. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the steps he has taken arising from recommendations of a review (details supplied) of homelessness services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47549/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Mazars Ireland’s Independent Review of Homeless Services report was commissioned by my Department and published in late 2015. The report was primarily a desktop review of available information and broadly sets out an overview of the organisations involved in delivering homeless services, the types of services and their public funding. With regard to recommendations, in summary the report referred to the need for a more comprehensive review of homeless services, including direct engagement with service providers, to consider the efficiency of funding a very large number of service providers and the extent to which duplication exists in the sector.

Following on from the Mazars report, my Department is currently engaged in a Value for Money Review with regard to expenditure on homelessness services and an independently chaired steering group is in place to oversee the Review. Questionnaires recently issued to a wide range of non-governmental homeless services providers and also the nine lead local authorities for the administration of homeless services. The questionnaires seek details on the material resources available to service providers, their overall goals and the specific objectives of the services they deliver and invite comment on the policy challenges and opportunities. The data produced via the questionnaires will be an important component of the overall Review process. I expect that the Review will be finalised early in 2018.

Land Availability

 291. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the details of the figures contained in the table 3 of the residential land availability survey 2014 for land owned by local authorities and that is publicly owned. [47552/17]

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy My Department, in conjunction with local authority planning departments, carried out a national survey of all lands zoned for residential development in statutory local authority development plans and local area plans across Ireland.

  This exercise, the Residential Land Availability Survey 2014, published in February 2015, determined the location and quantity of lands that may be regarded as being undeveloped and available for residential development purposes at 31 March 2014 in each local authority area. The survey measured the total amount of lands, whether owned privately or by the local authority, that have been identified for housing development in the various local authority development plans and that are the highest priority for development.

  The area of such lands amounts to 17,434 hectares which, given a range of densities appropriate to whether the areas are in small villages or larger towns and cities and as determined by the relevant local authorities, could enable the construction of an estimated 414,000 dwellings.

  The survey identifies zoned lands available for residential development and therefore does not detail information on land ownership. However, the active management of the publicly-owned housing land bank is part of a range of actions being progressed under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, designed to accelerate and increase housing output.

  Under Rebuilding Ireland, an online Housing Land Map was launched by my Department which aims to provide users with details of residentially zoned lands, local authority owned and Land Aggregation Scheme sites, other publicly owned sites with potential for housing development, and active private housing construction sites in the Dublin region. It represents a vital initial step in the new State Housing Land Management Strategy being developed under Ireland 2040, the National Planning Framework.

  On 27 April 2017, details of some 1,700 hectares of land in local authority and Housing Agency ownership were published on the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Land Map, with the potential to deliver some 42,500 homes nationally. The map also includes details of some 300 hectares of land in ownership of other State or semi-State bodies, with the potential to deliver a further 7,500 homes. These sites can be viewed at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/.

  In order to ensure a consistent and comprehensive approach to the development of these lands, I have asked all local authorities to prepare Strategic Development and Management Plans for housing lands in their ownership, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites that are already serviced and with the most potential to deliver housing at scale, in the short to medium term.

  In the first instance, the final development model for each site, including the tenure mix, will be the subject of careful consideration by the local authority concerned, including its elected members.

  My Department is continuing to work with all local authorities and State bodies to ensure that housing is delivered from appropriately located and publicly owned sites to meet our current and future housing requirements.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 292. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to fill vacancies at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47454/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Following the lifting of the embargo on recruitment to the Public Service, the military authorities have been identifying posts to be filled at various locations throughout the country on a prioritised basis. Competitions to fill posts identified by the military authorities are initiated following assessment of the business requirement for the posts. Posts in Custume Barracks, Athlone, are currently the subject of this ongoing assessment process.


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