Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
European Convention on Human Rights
136. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his views on the report issued by the European Committee on Social Rights in March 2021 which stated that the Government is still in breach of article 16 of the European Convention of Human Rights with respect to local authority tenants and Traveller accommodation; the additional actions he plans to take to address this breach of the international human rights obligations of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17669/21]
My Department supports a number of local authority housing stock improvement programmes which have seen €457m of exchequer funding invested in local authority housing stock improvement works since 2014. For example:
- The Energy Efficiency Programme aims to improve energy performance and comfort levels in homes. Since 2014, 60,357 homes have benefited from some level of retrofitting works at a cost of €134m
- The Voids Programme funds local authorities to remediate vacant homes to ensure they meet minimum letting standards. Since 2014, 16,102 vacant local authority homes have been remediated and re-let at a cost of €229m
- The Disabled Persons Grant Scheme funds necessary adaptations to local authority housing stock to accommodate the needs of the elderly and disabled and to relieve overcrowding. Since 2014, thousands of households have had their living conditions improved at a cost of €94m.
Moving forward, my Department is working with the local authority sector, through the City and County Management Association to transition the sector to a new planned maintenance approach based on stock condition surveys. Budget 2021 saw a significant uplift in Energy Efficiency funding and the Programme for Government commits to further funding being made available to local authorities going forward for planned maintenance works; insulation, windows and doors and heating systems.
With regards to Traveller Accommodation, a Programme Board has now been established to drive the implementation of recommendations contained within the Traveller Accommodation Expert Review Report. The Board had its first meeting on the 24 March 2021. Progress has already been made on a number of the recommendations set out in the report including the method of allocation of funding to local authorities which was modified in 2020 and improvements to data capture on the characteristics of the Traveller community as part of the Census.
A revised and affordable Caravan Loan Scheme for Traveller families is being introduced on a 6-month pilot basis across four local authorities from May 2021 with the objective of rolling it out nationally if the pilot proves successful. This scheme has the potential to make an immediate and hugely significant improvement to living conditions for many Traveller families. For the first time in six years the full capital and current budget allocations for Traveller accommodation were expended in 2020.
In 2020 just over 250 halting sites, both authorised and unauthorised, were audited for Covid preparedness and a list of deficiencies and checklist of works was prepared for each site. This resulted in over €4m of investment in improvements to site conditions.