Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D. Minister of State
Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland /SCSI National Conference 2017:
Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:15 p.m. at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this afternoon at the SCSI National Conference 2017 to explore the many difficult and complex challenges facing the construction sector which are being dealt with by your profession.
As you will all be aware, the Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that.
However we cannot implement this plan in isolation. We will need both collaboration and assistance from all of our partners involved in housing provision including industry professionals, such as SCSI members.
Shortage of critical Skills in the Construction Sector
To reach our Rebuilding Ireland objective to increase housing output to at least 25,000 homes per annum by 2021 – a doubling of 2015 output levels – requires the necessary skilled work force to be available.
It is crucuial that any new jobs created are available and accessible to those who are unemployed, and that their wealth of experience and talent can contribute to the recovery of the sector.
Significant work has been carried out under Rebuilding Ireland Department of Education; SOLAS; and the Apprenticeship Council with regard to improving skills and education in the sector and I would encourage continued consultation with the sector in that regard.
Affordability – Housing Delivery Costs
One of the challenges the Government faces is providing quality homes at a cost that is affordable. Under Rebuilding Ireland the Government committed to a broad range of measures to tackle, among other things, some of the costs associated with the provision of housing in the interests of reducing construction overheads.
This included a commitment to undertake a detailed analysis, in conjunction with the construction sector, to benchmark housing delivery input costs in Ireland, in order to facilitate an increased level of housing output into the future.
A working group, chaired by my Department, with a broad range of industry representatives was established late last year and has met several times. I am pleased to say that the group has benefited from positive contributions from industry including members of the SCSI.
Building Control Regulations – Reform
The aim of the building control regulatory framework is to ensure that a home or a building is designed and constructed in compliance with the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations.
Too many serious and unprecedented failures have affected our construction industry and economy over the past decade or so. Failures such as pyrite, defective blocks and fire safety which has given rise to difficulties and distress among the many affected homeowners.
The development of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 9 of 2014) was introduced to empower competence and professionalism on construction projects and establishing a chain of responsibility that begins the owner who must assign competent persons to design, build, inspect and certify the building works and who, in turn, must account for their contribution through the lodgement of compliance documentation, inspection plans and statutory certificates.
Social Housing – Getting the balance right
My Department’s policy is to achieve an appropriate and balanced mixture of tenures in new developments in order to avoid large mono tenure estates where difficulties have necessitated considerable public expenditure in regeneration.
My Department provides guidance on the scale of social housing which would be suitable in a particular context or area. This guidance is based on the size of the host town or city and the proportionate nature of the development to ensure good social integration and cohesion. For example a maximum size of 75 dwellings in any single mono tenure housing development applies in large urban areas with proportional reductions in size for smaller towns and villages.
Ideally all developments should provide for a mix of tenures and dwelling sizes to cater for all. Consistent with this policy, Part V of the Planning and Development Act is structured to deliver Social Housing in private housing developments.
Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability which will benefit all of our citizens.
While there are many challenges currently facing the housing and the wider construction sectors, we remain fully committed to meeting these challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you for inviting me here today and I wish you every success over the remainder of your conference.