Thursday, 28 June 2012
Local Authority Housing
Question 13: To ask the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government if he will consider allocating a greater part of the rent collected from local authority housing to the maintenance of the same housing and communal areas surrounding such housing; if he will consider increasing the sum paid to the residents' associations to €2,000 for estates of over 30 houses and to €1,000 for estates of less than 30 houses respectively as they have, over the years, taken on the work of caring for the same estates; if he will consider directing the local authorities to increase the sum they pay out to the community employment schemes in view of the fact that these schemes continue to take on a greater role in caring for estates as councils cut back on the work they are doing on open and communal areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29030/12]
In accordance with the provisions of the Housing Act 1966, the provision and management of social housing, including the carrying out of routine and planned maintenance programmes to properties and estates, is the responsibility of the relevant housing authority. Housing and estate maintenance programmes are funded directly by local authorities from their own resources, including from rental income and receipts from the disposal of properties and sales of houses to tenants.
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. The adoption of an authority's annual budget is a reserved function.
In the case of Leitrim County Council, I understand that the council makes an annual contribution, from the provision set aside for estate management, to residents networks for enhancement works on housing estates in the county. The various residents associations work in partnership with a company funded through the community employment, CE, scheme to maintain and improve the communal areas on local authority estates. I understand that there are currently some ten CE schemes in County Leitrim which are assisted through the Department of Social Protection and employing 172 participants and ten supervisors. I have no function in relation to the funding or operation of CE schemes.
In terms of maintenance by local authorities, a huge problem is developing with regard to the number of voids left in areas. The Minister of State said that local authorities raise their own funds for the maintenance and the delivery of voids but Dublin City Council now has a huge build up of voids. The problem in my area is getting serious in terms of the number of houses being boarded up which could be used for social housing. That would provide revenue to the local authorities. We would get value for money. There is no doubt the local authorities need to get extra help from somewhere in terms of funding and it is not correct to say that Dublin City Council and other local authorities can raise the funding. They get it from their own tenants through the rents and so on but it is not enough. They are not able to do it. There is an urgent need for help to deal with the maintenance issues.
-----that €145 million was allocated to local authorities this year in respect of measures aimed at improving the social housing stock. That takes in regeneration, which is €90 million, and €27 million for the remedial works scheme in 26 different local authorities. There is also the money for extensions and adaptions but as I am sure the Deputy is aware, there is a specific allocation in regard to-----
-----energy efficiency in voids, and it is specifically targeted at empty houses both last year and this year. I visited various local authorities around the country who asked me if they could use some of that money for occupied houses because tenants living beside empty houses can see the work being done on those yet cannot get their house done because they are in occupation. We are talking about relatively scarce resources and trying to distribute them as widely as we can.
I accept that the issue of voids is important as well as the need to ensure that we target funding to bring those houses, apartments etc. back into productive use as quickly as we can. On the other hand, there are also occupied houses that are in a bad state also. We have to spread the money and target it as well as we can.
One of the reasons the problem is increasing massively is the number of houses being returned to the local authority whether from people who have run into problems with their mortgages or in terms of shared ownership from other places, and getting them back into play is proving very difficult. I am aware there are grants for the local authorities but the problem is we are in a crisis, they are getting back more properties and they are unable to get those back on stream. It is not the case that money is not being put in. There is simply not enough because of the demand and the number of houses being handed back.
There is probably a particular difficulty in Dublin because it is such a large area and there is so much social housing need but we are always open to suggestions as to how we might best use the resources available to ensure that we can maintain the stock of housing in as good a condition as we possibly can. Obviously, different local authorities choose to do different things. The initial response to Deputy Flanagan's question was around maintenance of the outside of the estate, using community employment schemes etc. I am not sure but that may be a way of addressing problems that we may not have thought of in some of the other local authorities. It is a question of trying to use the resources as well as we can, and I am open to any suggestions that might come from whatever source.