Seanad Éireann - Volume 169 - 21 February, 2002
Adjournment Matter. - Local Authority Housing.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: This matter on the Adjournment has to do with the completion of the programme for installing central heating in the remainder of the local authority's housing stock. Some of the existing housing stock is old and some of it is new. In the past 20 years or so, it has been the practice to install central heating in every new house and flat constructed under the local authority's remit, but obviously in the past this was not the norm and there is still a substantial body of housing units which do not have central heating.
Last year Dublin Corporation borrowed €7.5 million to install central heating in half the outstanding stock, that is, in approximately 2,000 units. It cannot proceed further without borrowing more. It expected that the Department of the Environment and Local Government would be forthcoming with the funding but this did not prove to be the case.
The local authority intended to proceed this year further with the last section of the remaining housing stock which has no central heating. The old houses in Ballyfermot and Finglas were completed and it was intended to work on the houses in Cabra and the inner city, but that was not possible because the funding has not been made available by the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
 The sum of money concerned is quite small – it should be €7.5 million rather than €7 million. That sum would solve much of the outstanding problem and would get rid of the anomalous situation in the housing stock. For example, the Department of the Environment and Local Government will assist in the refurbishment of any new house bought by the local authority and if the house does not have central heating already, it is installed. If it is a housing unit owned by the local authority which changes hands, however, it will not be refurbished and central heating will not be installed. It is a case of hit and miss, depending on the type of house a person is allocated. If a person gets a house purchased by the local authority, he or she gets central heating installed automatically. If a person gets an old corporation house returned to the housing stock, it does not have central heating.
What I am talking about is the completion of a job, which has already been started, with a relatively small amount of money. I ask the Department of the Environment and Local Government to regard this as a matter of urgency and to make the money available to Dublin City Council.
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Ms Hanafin): On behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Molloy, I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity of clarifying this matter.
Since 1994, the Department of the Environment and Local Government has required that full central heating should be provided in all new local authority dwellings. The capital cost of these houses is of course met in full by the Department. Some 28,500 dwelling units, equivalent to more than a quarter of the local authority rental housing stock, have been built under this new regime.
Most earlier local authority dwellings, with the exception of the Ballymun complex, would have been built without central heating or with partial central heating only. In principle, the management, maintenance and improvement of these dwellings comes under the responsibility of the relevant local authority. For this purpose authorities may use the full proceeds of their rental income and miscellaneous housing receipts, supplemented, as necessary, from their general revenue resources. The most recent statistics available from local authorities indicate that, in 2000, they spent €184 million on the management and maintenance of their rented housing stock which would give an average of €1,846 per housing unit.
While responsibility for management and maintenance rests with the local authority, very significant capital funding has been provided to Dublin City Council and other local authorities under a number of schemes operated by the Department to assist them in the upgrading and refurbishment of their existing dwellings. The remedial works scheme provides 100% capital  funding to authorities nationally to assist them to carry out major works to designated housing estates, mainly dwellings constructed pre-1960 and rundown urban estates.
A further €80 million approximately has been made available to Dublin City Council under the Department's area regeneration programme, including funding for the upgrading of older flat complexes at various locations throughout the city. A sum of €320 million has been provided under this scheme nationwide since its introduction in 1985, with €115 million or almost 36% going to projects in Dublin city.
The installation of central heating normally forms part of the works undertaken under both these schemes. Some 9,000 dwellings in Dublin, mainly flats, have been provided under these schemes. In addition to the funding available under the remedial works scheme, local auth orities may seek the Department's approval for the use of their internal capital receipts – many derived from sales of houses to tenants – which are surplus to the requirements of their local authority housing programme and remedial works scheme, for improvement works such as the provision of central heating to their dwellings.
It will take some time and a continued commitment of resources, both local and national, to reverse the legacy of earlier policies which did not provide for central heating in local authority dwellings, but that work and resourcing is well under way in Dublin city as in other local authority areas. Ensuring a first class local authority housing stock has been a priority of the Government and our commitment to this objective remains firm.
The Seanad adjourned at 2.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 February 2002.
Seanad Éireann 169 Adjournment Matter. Local Authority Housing.