Dáil debates

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Priority Questions

Public Private Partnerships.

3:00 pm

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Question 88: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has been in contact with the local authorities regarding the use of public private partnership to provide social and affordable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21194/08]

Photo of Michael FinneranMichael Finneran (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
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Following the announcement by Dublin City Council on Monday, 19 May 2008, that a number of regeneration projects being carried out through PPP arrangements would not proceed as planned, my Department and the council met to examine the implications of the announcement for the projects concerned. The city council has informed the Department that, while the developer in question has not formally withdrawn from the projects, he has indicated that due to the adversely changed circumstances of the current private housing market, along with additional costs cited due to increased apartment sizes and new energy requirements, the approach under which the projects were tendered is unsustainable in the current market.

I understand that a further meeting between the council and the developer concerned took place yesterday and, arising from this, the developer is to submit proposals to the council by Thursday of this week, setting out an approach through which he considers the projects might be taken forward. The council has undertaken to consider these proposals as a matter of urgency. My Department is also examining the potential implications of these events for the PPP housing programme generally and a specialist group has been established to further this aim. My main concern at this stage is to reassure the communities directly involved that the regeneration process continues. Dublin City Council remains firmly committed to this objective and my Department will continue to engage actively with the council as it endeavours to move the process forward as quickly as possible.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Since the news reached the communities in Dublin where the five regeneration projects were to take place, there has been a great deal of concern and anger at the delay in bringing them to fruition. The PPP process was deemed to be the solution to the problems related to acquiring the necessary capital for, and to giving impetus to, these housing projects. After waiting eight years for them to proceed, does the Minister of State accept the urgency regarding this matter has reached a level where the patience of the residents, who are the most important consideration in the entire debacle, is being called into question? Will he apply himself fully to ensuring Michael McNamara and Company, the successful bidder for these projects, and his Department engage with the communities to make sure they are reassured about the potential for many new and regenerated homes in their areas?

Photo of Michael FinneranMichael Finneran (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
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I accept that the five communities involved have concerns. The position is that three of them are signed contracts and two are at the tender process. Dublin City Council is in consultation with the regeneration boards in the different areas. My Department is actively in consultation with the council regarding these matters. As I said, a specialist group has been established under the chairmanship of my Department to look at the PPP process.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I beg the Ceann Comhairle's indulgence to apologise to the Minister of State for not congratulating him on his first day here answering questions as Minister of State with responsibility for housing and to wish him well.

The national development plan had significant targets in respect of social and affordable housing. The PPP process was part and parcel of the strategy to deliver those targets. With the rapid reduction in the number of house completions and the forecast for house completions in the next couple of years, can the Minister of State tell us what the revised social and affordable housing targets for the next couple of years are arising from the massive downtown in house completions we have seen this year and which is forecast for next year and the year after?

Photo of Michael FinneranMichael Finneran (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy knows, the capital announcements have been made to the different local authorities. An allocation of €250 million has been made available to Dublin City Council. The PPP process is only one of a number of options available to Dublin City Council as regards the provision of housing.

As I said, the developer in this case has not withdrawn from the projects. He has raised questions and ongoing discussions are taking place. We will have a further report by Thursday.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State already knows that the money allocated to each local authority this year is insufficient to even meet the plans already put in train in 2007. Does he accept that there is a shortfall in the considerable amount of resources required in each local authority to fulfil the objectives set out in the national development plan? Will he revise his figures downwards to meet that new reality?

Photo of Michael FinneranMichael Finneran (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
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Obviously, we will take into consideration all of the reports. As the Deputy is aware, the report from the different local authorities is due to be returned to my Department inside the next couple of weeks. There are 17 live PPP projects across the country, most of which are in Dublin. They will offer 1,427 social housing units, 2,131 affordable housing units and 4,105 private units so there is still a major housing development programme in place. As I said, Dublin City Council alone has been allocated a sum of €250 million towards its housing needs for 2008.