Speech to Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland in Maynooth

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Apprenticeships, Brexit, Budget 2017, Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Speeches, Trim, Wesmeath

Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D. Minister of State

at the

Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland /SCSI National Conference 2017:

on

Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:15 p.m. at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

Introduction

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.

 Conclusions

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.

Thank you

Speech to National Construction Summit Sustaining the Momentum

Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Navan, Wesmeath

Speech by

Damien English T.D.

Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

at the

National Construction Summit

Sustaining the Momentum

15 June 2016

 

 

Opening Remarks

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:

Government

The Department

NAMA

The local authorities

Developers

Land Owners

Builders

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:

 

housingmarketpolicy@environ.ie

 

My Department will also be organising stakeholder consultation events on the Action Plan and your participation and input would be very welcome.

 

 

 

Potential Actions:

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

Thank You.

Meath economy moving in right direction with construction and motoring boost – English

Business, Meath

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innvoation Damien English T.D. has welcomed recent figures which show an increase of 18.5% in the number of jobs in the construction sector since this time last year, as well as figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) which confirm a 30% rise in Meath of 151 new car registrations from January to June 2015, equating to 2,490 new Meath cars on the road in that 6 month period.

“With one of the fastest drops in unemployment nationally too, under the Action Plans for Jobs launched in February 2012, aided also by Meath County Council’s new Economic Development Plan, it is clear that Meath’s economy is moving in the right direction.  We now need stability of Government nationally and sensible economic and taxation policies to keep it moving that way” Minister English said.

Amongst other positive economic indicators from both the CSO and SIMI highlighted by Minister English were the 56% rise in new sales of light goods vehicles, another sign of economic development and demand.  The cost of motoring  is now 6% lower for petrol vehicle drivers, and 9% lower for diesel drivers.  The average price of a new car has dropped by 3%.  5,600 exta  people are now employed in the motor industry nationally than in 2014, and 75% of SIMI members have a positive outlook for 2016.  Overall, concumer confidence is at a 9 year high according to the CSO.

“The latest CSO figures show that 126,000 people are now employed in the construction sector, that’s an increase of almost 20,000 in twelve months. These are national figures but the jobs are distributed across the country, including here in Co. Meath” the Meath West Fine Gael T.D. said.

“The construction sector suffered a massive decline when the economy collapsed in 2008.  At that time, 280,000 people were employed in the sector and this dropped to below 100,000 by 2012. A healthy economy must have a vibrant and sustainable construction sector, and that is what we are now rebuilding”

“Here in Meath we have many highly skilled construction workers who for too many years have struggled to find work. We have also lost many to emigration due to the property fuelled bubble propped up by the last Fianna Fail Government. Now we are starting to see growth again in this area and opportunities for Meath workers.”

“I am confident that there is plenty of room for the construction sector in Meath to grow, but we must do this in a sensible sustainable way.  We don’t want any more bubbles. We must guard against returning to the boom and bust model that failed Meath and its people in the past” concluded Minister English.