Written answers

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Housing Schemes

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein)
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267. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when the new tenant purchase scheme will be available to council tenants in County Tipperary; the reason that no information has been forthcoming despite it being due to come into effect from 1 February 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32376/22]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme was reviewed in 2021 in line with Programme for Government and Housing for All commitments.

The amendments, which came into effect on 1st February 2022, include a reduction in the minimum reckonable income required to be eligible under the scheme from €15,000 to €12,500. The time an applicant is required to be in receipt of social housing supports to be able to apply under the scheme has also been revised. This has been increased from one to ten years. Local authorities were formally advised of these amendments by Circular on 12 January 2022. 

Applications received by local authorities prior to 1 February 2022 should be assessed with reference to the regulations and requirements in place at the time, with applications received after 1 February 2022 assessed in accordance with the new requirements.

While local authorities have already been formally advised of these changes, revised scheme guidelines, and a Ministerial Order giving effect to changes in the treatment of the State contributory and non-contributory pensions for reckonable income purposes, will issue shortly. 

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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268. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he has considered or if he will consider extending the eligibility for the local authority home loan scheme to support the refurbishment of inherited property in circumstances in which substantial refurbishment is required in order to bring the property into a habitable condition and in cases in which the applicant has met all other eligibility conditions pertaining to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32404/22]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Local Authority Home Loan is a Government backed mortgage for those on modest or low incomes who cannot get sufficient funding from commercial banks to purchase or build a home. It has been available nationwide from local authorities since 4 January 2022 for first-time buyers and fresh start applicants. The loan can be used both for new and second-hand properties, or to self-build. It is the successor to the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.

Property ownership through inheritance is disregarded for this scheme i.e. if you own a house (or portion of a house) that you did not purchase then you are still eligible to apply for the Local Authority Home Loan Scheme.

In line with the previous schemes, the Local Authority Home Loan scheme is designed to enable credit worthy first time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range, or to self build; it does not include undertaking renovation projects.  I have no plans to change this requirement at present. 

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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270. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government further to the reports in the media of a 35% increase in the discretionary housing assistance payment limit and changes to rules around local authorities ability to purchase homes with sitting HAP tenants who are in receipt of an NTQ on grounds of sale, if he will provide details regarding both these initiatives, including the new HAP limits across the country including uplifts and homeless rates and any rules around purchasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32526/22]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The Government, under Housing for All, will deliver 47,600 new build social homes and 3,500 social homes through long-term leasing in the period 2022-2026. Our clear focus is to increase the stock of social housing through new build projects delivered by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHB), and with this, to reduce the numbers of social homes delivered through acquisition programmes.

On 19 January, my Department issued a circular letter to local authorities advising that social housing acquisitions by local authorities and AHB CALF acquisitions in 2022 would be focused on a number of priority areas, as follows:

- One-bedroom units to deliver on Housing First and meet the short supply in this category;

- Other properties that allow persons/families to exit homelessness; and

- Specific housing required for/suitable for individuals with a disability or other particular priority needs.

Local authorities were also advised that limited acquisitions through the Capital Assistance Scheme will also be approved, subject to the available budget for specific vulnerable cohorts, such as housing for older people, accommodation for individuals and families who are homeless and for people with a disability.

On 20 April, a further circular letter issued to local authorities in relation to social housing acquisitions. The key purpose of this circular was to advise local authorities that I had reinstated the delegated sanction to local authorities in respect of social housing acquisitions which are:

(i) in one of the priority categories set out in the January circular letter;

(ii) are in line with acquisition cost guidelines; and

(iii) can be completed during 2022.

The reinstatement of delegated sanction will allow local authorities to respond more flexibility to secure acquisitions which support a household to exit or to prevent homelessness. It is a matter for individual local authorities to identify suitable acquisitions in line with local circumstances and their social housing allocations policy. 

Another commitment under Housing for All required my Department to undertake an analytical exercise to examine whether an increase in the level of the 20% discretion available to local authorities under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is required, in order to maintain adequate levels of HAP support. 

Following this analysis, I am working with Government colleagues and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to provide for an increase in the HAP discretion rate to 35% and, for new tenancies, to expand the couple’s rate to single persons where required. Further details will be available when the engagement process is complete. These changes will secure more tenancies and prevent new entries to homelessness.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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271. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will provide the numbers of those in need of housing across all local authorities; if these figures will include those that are on housing assistance payment and rental accommodation scheme transfer lists as these tenancies are not secure and permanent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32527/22]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority administrative area is provided in the annual statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA). 

The most recent summary for all counties, conducted in November 2021, is available at:

www.gov.ie/en/publication/f6119-summary-of-social-housing-assessments-2021-key-findings/.

The key figure reported in the SSHA is referred to as ‘net need’. Net need is the total number of households qualified for social housing support whose need for support is not being met. This total excludes:

- duplicate applications – where a household has applied to more than one authority for social housing support, only their first application was included in the count;

- those in receipt of social housing support – for example, households currently living in local authority rented accommodation, approved housing body accommodation, accommodation provided under the HAP scheme, accommodation provided under the RAS, or accommodation provided under the SHCEP schemes;

- households on a transfer list – any household that has applied for a transfer from an existing form of social housing support including HAP.

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