Damien English T.D.
Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal
National Construction Summit
Sustaining the Momentum
15 June 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen, Chairman Tom Parlon, thank you for the opportunity to address the National Construction Summit at the RDS.
My main aim today is to talk to you about the number one priority for Government – Housing.
I am here to ask you to get involved in the design and the delivery of the Action Plan for Housing; our plan to create a more sustainable housing market.
The residential sector, as you are aware, has been very slow to recover, and there is a very significant pent-up demand.
The unmet demand is contributing to significant increases in rental costs and putting people at risk of homelessness.
The annual requirement for new homes is around 25,000 but the industry output is currently well below this level.
Just over 12,600 housing units were completed last year. Without intervention it may stay there.
Yet, there is enough planning permission in Dublin alone for 27,000 houses. Indeed there is enough zoned land for 88,000 houses in Dublin.
About half require some infrastructure but most of it is localised and not very high cost.
There are 4,400 housing units under construction on building sites in Dublin – that is, 4,400 of the 27,000 with full planning permission out of the 88,000 in terms of zoned land.
Clearly, the potential exists to dramatically increase housing output in and around Dublin with the right interventions around planning, infrastructure and the financials to make things happen.
We need to get these sites moving, we need the houses and apartments. People and families need homes and the growing economy needs a functioning housing market.
There’s a role for everyone in this room to get things moving along with:
The local authorities
Financiers and investors.
The bottom line is we need to increase the supply of Housing; private houses for sale, social housing, affordable rental accommodation – or better yet sites that can provide a combination of all these.
A lot has been done already to make housing projects more viable and to boost supply, but Government accepts it needs to do more.
Action Plan for Housing:
In response to the on-going supply problems, Government are well underway on drafting the Action Plan for Housing.
The Government aims to achieve a dramatic change in circumstances around the housing system as quickly as we can.
So we want to hear from all stakeholders. We will take on board practical the ideas that will work, ideas that represent the best value for the public finances.
I know that many of you in this room have appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness, and this will feed directly into the Action Plan.
I want you all to know that my door is open to you. I know from my experience with the Action Plan for Jobs that it’s only through a partnership approach that demanding goals can be met.
In 2012 when the Action Plan for Jobs started we stated that we will help to create 100,000 net new jobs in the private sector. A lot of people laughed. But the situation with unemployment at the time was no laughing matter.
The Action Plan allowed for a partnership approach to putting into effect the necessary steps that were needed to assist the jobs market.
A step by step approach across all Government Departments, together with all Stakeholders, ensured that we reached our targets. In fact we exceeded them.
Over 135,000 jobs net new jobs were created in the private sector. The Action Plan for Jobs was a success.
I have no doubt whatsoever that the same logical process; step by step, action by action will deliver on Housing too.
To this end I would welcome any suggestions that you might have by email to:
My Department will also be organising stakeholder consultation events on the Action Plan and your participation and input would be very welcome.
A couple of things we’re looking at in the context of the action plan include
Firstly, an infrastructure fund aimed at opening up residential developments, particularly at affordable price levels, was announced yesterday.
The Government will be seeking firm commitments that houses will be built where enabling infrastructure is put in place.
We are examining measures to boost the supply of student housing. There is a demand for 25,000 units. This will free up the private rental market
Currently around 3% of the Irish population is aged over 80. By 2060 that figure will have more than trebled. We need to plan and deliver housing for an older and longer living population.
An affordable rental scheme is being developed to help households on low to moderate incomes
Also the Programme for Government outlines our commitment to accelerate the delivery of the €3.8 billion Social Housing Strategy
In terms of Finance, we wish to develop ways to have better access to more affordable money & to reduce the cost of developing houses.
In addition the ISIF has been engaged in a number of important initiatives to help increase housing outputs.
Activate Capital is a €500 million non-bank fund which has been established by ISIF and global investment group KKR.
To date in 2016, Activate has provided site and working capital finance for the delivery of 800 homes. Activate’s pipeline for new-home construction funding is strong.
In addition, ISIF is also working closely with Ardstone Capital on delivering residential units to the market over the short to medium-term.
We are also committed to examining all aspects of the “viability equation” particularly input costs, to help ensure that housing is intrinsically affordable, to bring on stream, whether for buyers or providers.
Increasing supply is a major priority but ensuring the quality and standard of the new supply is just as important to me.
I do appreciate that there are additional costs of construction in doing so compared to 10 years ago. But we must sell the long term benefits of a better quality & a better built home. This includes recognition for those registered builders on the Construction Industry Register Ireland.
In addition, revitalising cities, towns, villages and communities is a key objective of mine and my Department. Housing actions in this space are being developed to complement the broader programmes and projects. I know from your own submissions that you are in agreement with this.
To conclude, the housing situation is in many ways a result of the positive growth in our economy.
The crucial thing now is to use the Action Plan for Housing to build on this base so that we continue to grow the sector to sustainable levels.
Given the gravity of the situation we are thinking radically and are prepared to do whatever it takes to mend the housing system in Ireland.
Once the Action Plan for Housing is put in place it will be very important that the construction sector responds and I will seek assurances that if we deliver, that you will too.
I have no doubt that the construction sector has a vital role to play in the recovery of the economy. I see good potential for the sector to rebuild to a sustainable level.
The Action Plan for Housing can be the catalyst for change in the sector. I look forward to hearing your views on solving the housing crisis and in putting the sector on a sustainable footing – growing from 6% of GNP to 15%.
The Government will actively play its part with the Action Plan. Minister Coveney and I want to assure you, we will continue to address the challenges in the sector in a targeted and meaningful way.