SPC 1 - Minutes
Minutes of Meeting of Strategic Policy Committee 1 – Housing & Corporate held on Tuesday, 13th April, 2021 at 10.00 am in The Council Chamber, County Hall, Riverside, Sligo
- Councillor Arthur Gibbons (Chair)
- Councillor Declan Bree
- Councillor Gino O’Boyle
- Councillor Tom Fox
- Karl Kelly (Business Pillar)
- Melinda Swann (PPN Environment)
MEMBERS ATTENDING VIRTUALLY:
- Pippa Black (PPN Social Inclusion)
- Pat Fallon (Trade Union Pillar)
- Alan McMenamin (PPN Community & Voluntary)
OFFICIALS IN ATTENDANCE:
- Mr John Moran, A/Director of Services
- Mr Joe Murphy, Senior Executive Officer
- Mr Sean Martin, A/Senior Architect
- Mr Jimmy O’Brien, A/HIS
- Ms Pauline Lavelle, Meetings Administrator
- Ms Mary Farrell, Assistant Staff Officer
Apologies were received from Councillor M Baker.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, welcomed everyone to the meeting.
MINUTES OF MEETING OF SPC 1 HELD ON 15TH DECEMBER 2020:
It was proposed by Councillor G O’Boyle
Seconded by Councillor D Bree
“To confirm the minutes of the Meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee 1 – Housing and Corporate – held on 15th December, 2020”.
MATTERS ARISING FROM MINUTES:
Councillor O’Boyle raised the issue of the Council’s RÁS transfer list and it was agreed that it be discussed under ‘Any other Business’.
HOUSING DELIVERY 2018-2021:
J Moran, A/Director of Servicessummarised a report on Housing Delivery 2018-2021 which had already been circulated to the members and said that there was a shortfall under building and leasing due to Covid but was hopeful that targets would be met in 2022. Adverts had been published for Turnkey for Sligo town.
A discussion then took place on the contents of this report.
Councillor Fox asked if there was a breakdown of numbers available for each municipal district and J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer confirmed that this information could be made available.
S Martin, A/Senior Architect informed the meeting that 14 units had been delivered at ‘Harbour View’ on the Rosses Point Road and there was also a special NZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) pilot project completed in St. Joseph’s Terrace Sligo.
A McMenamin sought an update on PPP project at Rathellen, Finisklin. S Martin advised the meeting that survey work was commencing this week, sketch designs are being prepared and it was anticipated that planning approval would be received byFebruary 2022.
Councillor O’Boyle enquired regarding funding for acquisitions of property and asked if funding was available throughout the year or at the end of the year. J Murphy replied that the number of houses that the Council could buy in 2021 was due to be raised with the Department at a meeting the following week.
Councillor O’Boyle also enquired if it was difficult to be approved for the HAP Scheme. J Murphy advised that the Council is guided by the figures as set by the Department. It was agreed by all the members that despite the high demand for a HAP Scheme, there was a difficulty in sourcing suitable properties. J Murphy stated that any particular difficulties in this regard should be brought to the attention of the Council’s Housing staff.
Councillor Bree expressed concern with the way the report on Housing Delivery 2018-2021 was presented. It was not clear how many units were delivered and what the Council’s targets were. He also said that the Department had not provided adequate funding and the Council, as a consequence, were unable to deliver a realistic building programme in line with projected targets. J Murphy advised the meeting that a revised report would be circulated to the members.
Councillor Bree also requested that the members would get an updated report at every SPC1 meeting and J Moran, A/Director or Services advised the meeting that this item would be kept on the agenda for future meetings of SPC1.
PROGRESS REPORT ON IMPLEMENTATION OF VACANT HOMES ACTION PLAN:
J Moran, A/Director of Services summarised the report compiled by F. Moylan, Senior Planner on the implementation of the Vacant Homes Action Plan which had already been circulated to the members. It stated that in February 2018, the Planning Section prepared a Vacant Homes Action Plan. The first key action was to identify the real level of vacancy in the Sligo and its Environs area. Approximately 6,500 residential properties were inspected and up to the end of 2020, only 4.6% (299) were determined to be vacant. This was significantly less than the vacancy rate of 19% which had been identified in the Census for 2016.
The Council have been informing the owners of long term vacant homes of the options/incentives that are available to bring these homes back into use.
Councillor Bree noted that according to the Central Statistics Office, there was a total housing stock of 7,013 in Sligo Borough of which 43 were vacant holiday homes with total vacant dwellings being 1,313. On the basis of the Council’s inspections up to the end of 2020, of the 6,500 inspected, only 300 were vacant. Regarding this significant discrepancy, Councillor Bree queried the Executive’s view on this and asked if it had been brought to the attention of the CSO. It was his opinion that there were much more than 300 vacant properties in the borough area.
J Moran, A/Director of Services, advised the meeting that this matter was dealt with by the Planning Section of Sligo County Council and through the planning SPC forum and that a member of the Planning team could be invited to attend the next SPC1 meeting to answer queries.
A McMenamin also expressed concern at the large discrepancies contained in the report and agreed that clarification was needed from the Planning Section.
Councillor Fox said that the report was quite vague and that other methods should be used to obtain these figures, e.g. R.T.B, An Post, Eircodes, etc.
M Swann enquired when a Vacant Homes Officer would be employed to determine the level of vacancies and she also reiterated that the report on the implementation of the Vacant Homes Action Plan was quite vague.
Councillor Bree advised the meeting that he was not aware of having previously been provided with a copy of the Vacant Homes Action Plan which contained a number of objectives that had not been followed up and this matter would need to be discussed at a full Council meeting.
On the proposal of Councillor Bree, seconded by Councillor O’Boyle, it was agreed that a member of Sligo County Council’s planning team would be asked to attend the next SPC1 meeting to answer queries on the report.
Councillor Bree stated that while he was aware of the costs involved in acquiring properties through the CPO process, he enquired if more funds could be made available by the Department to acquire properties through this process. J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer, advised that it can take a considerable amount of time and resources to deliver units via the CPO process in particular with regard to derelict properties which could take 2/3 years to deliver.
S Martin, A/Senior Architect, advised the members that the difficulties in acquiring vacant properties was contingent on achieving value for money and could, therefore, pose a problem in delivery of units through this method of acquisition.
Councillor Fox stated that more should be done to incentivise the private sector to provide rented accommodation. He said that many owners of vacant homes are not in a financial position to bring houses up to standard and assistance should be provided to them in this regard.
A McMenamin questioned if the repair and lease scheme was addressing the current needs of the private sector in bringing properties back into use. He also stated that the local authority housing stock needed to be increased.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, gave details of a letter received from Threshold requesting to address the members on homelessness on an annual basis. Due to Covid, Councillor Gibbons said that it would be appropriate to ask them to attend virtually with the presentation to last for about 10 minutes and then have a question and answer session. It was agreed to receive a presentation at the next SPC Meeting.
A McMenamin referred to correspondence on a number of issues submitted on behalf of the PPN SPC1 reps in response to which a copy of the Standing Orders and SPC Scheme has been provided - the 2 outstanding items are a work plan for SPC1 work plan and a calendar of SPC1 meetings for the remainder of 2021/2022. P Black told the meeting that she had a copy of the schedule of works for Galway County Council SPC and agreed to forward it to J Moran for consideration for the next meeting. The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, agreed that the Committee does require a plan but that no decisions could be made without ratification from the full Council. A schedule of meeting dates to be addressed under item 5 (Date for next Meeting)
DATE FOR NEXT MEETING:
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, proposed the following dates for SPC1 meetings to the end of the year: Tuesday, 8th June, 2021, Tuesday, 7th September, 2021 and Tuesday, 7th December, 2021. This was agreed by all members.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS:
Councillor Bree queried the function of corporate in this SPC as corporate issues were dealt with by the Corporate Policy Group. J Moran, A/Director of Services, replied that some Corporate items, for example, the establishment of a Disability Consultative had been included on the agenda for an SPC1 meeting. He said that this would be examined to determine what else relating to Corporate could be included for this SPC.
Following a query from Councillor O’Boyle on a transfer list for RÁS applicants, J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer, advised that there is set criteria around the RÁS transfer list. RÁS tenants approved after 2011 were not entitled to be on the transfer list to obtain a Council house; RÁS tenants pre 2011 were, however, allowed to be on the Council’s transfer list. He said that the Council can check with other local authorities around the allocation policy and he hoped to have an update on this matter for the next SPC1 meeting. He also stated that a review of the Allocation Scheme had commenced under the previous S.P.C. but had not concluded by the time of the last meeting of that S.P.C. He stated that it was his intention to bring it back to the current S.P.C.
Councillor Bree stated that there had been a Dáil Committee report on a national draft allocation policy and asked for issued raised therein to be included in a draft that would come before the Committee.This was agreed.
M Swann queried if the SPC1 would be overseeing the climate action responses. J Moran, A/Director of Services, replied that there is a separate Climate Action SPC set up for this purpose under the Infrastructure and Environmental Directorate.
M Swann also said that there was a need for a review of speed limits in residential areas. J Moran advised that this matter is dealt with by the Infrastructure &Environment SPC / Directorate.
A McMenamin queried the up-to-date position on proposals for an approved housing body forum for Sligo and requested a time frame for this process. J Murphy advised that the process had been started but had been deferred due to the Covid crisis but the matter was being kept under review.
With reference to the Corporate Plan 2020-2024, P Black quoted some objectives from the Plan with regards to gender and social inclusion. She drew attention to the application form for social housing support which asks an applicant to tick gender, whether male or female. She suggested that changes should be made to the application form for applicants who identify as neither. Councillors Bree, O’Boyle and Fox supported P Black’s comments and agreed that it should be addressed nationally. J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer, stated that the social housing support form is a Department document. P Black advised the meeting that PPN had suggested changes to the form and she would forward them to J Moran for consideration by Housing.
A McMenamin queried if there was a report available on land banks in the ownership of Sligo County Council. On the proposal of A McMenamin, seconded by Councillor Bree, it was agreed that a report on landbanks in the ownership of the Council would be circulated to the members for discussion at the next meeting.
P. Black stated that the Disability Federation of Ireland were enquiring regarding the status of Sligo County Council Disability Inclusion & Access Strategy 2019 to 2022 - an update be provided. Ms. Black also suggested that the SPC receive a presentation from the Sligo Housing & Disability Steering Group as soon as possible as the Sligo Strategic Plan for Housing People with a Disability is being
reviewed. It was agreed that the Sligo Housing & Disability Steering Group be invited to make a presentation at the next SPC meeting in June, and that the Threshold presentation previously referred to be deferred until the September meeting.
Councillor O’Boyle enquired regarding energy works to two houses at Dorrins Strand, Strandhill. J Murphy said that he would revert to Councillor O’Boyle on this matter.
Regarding a national rollout of 600,000 heat pumps throughout Ireland, M Swann enquired if any had been allocated to Sligo County Council. S Martin, A/Senior Architect, advised that all new constructions, including refurbishments, are to be fitted with heat pumps and he would revert with the number of pumps fitted to date. At Councillor Bree’s request, S Martin agreed to circulate a report on the savings involved in having heat pumps installed.
A McMenamin asked if the Council had made any application to SEAI for insulation for local authority stock. J Murphy, Senior Executive Officer, advised that the Council were asked not to make an application to SEAI for funding for local authority stock as there is a funding scheme in place for retrofits of local authority stock.
Councillor O’Boyle asked for a progress update on the retrofits funding scheme. J Murphy advised that this was currently being examined. He advised that the members would be updated on this matter in due course.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, asked that the agenda for each SPC1 meeting be issued two weeks in advance of the meeting. J Moran replied that this would be arranged.
P Black also requested that an email be sent to members one week in advance of the agenda being issued to serve as a reminder for any notices of motion to be included. This was agreed.
The Chair, Councillor Gibbons, thanked all for attending the meeting.
The business of the meeting concluded at 11.40 a.m.
Meeting Date 13/04/2021