Timber shortage impacting house building and construction

'Current stocks are dwindling rapidly' 
Timber shortage impacting house building and construction

Mark McAuley, Director of Forest Industries Ireland beside timber-framed houses at the Gem Construction site in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. Picture: Tony Gavin.

The housing crisis is set to be further impacted by the shortage of timber available to builders, builders merchants and hardware stores because of the ongoing struggle to get licences issued for planting and felling trees, by the Department of Agriculture. 

According to the experts in the field, demand for Irish timber is at an all-time high but current stocks are rapidly dwindling as a result of failures to issue necessary licences.

Representatives of Forest Industries Ireland (FII), the Hardware Association Ireland (HAI) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) - whose sectors have a combined worth of almost €35bn and employ 220,000 workers - have warned that the situation is worsening because of Ireland’s reliance on the importation of logs and sawn timber.

They also say it is becoming unsustainable due to increasing costs and competing demand for these products.

Afforestation targets

And, added to the construction problem, the country will miss its climate targets on afforestation because just 2,400 hectares of forests were planted last year compared to the 8,000ha targeted by the Government.

“Throughout 2021 we have seen increases in the price of timber and a very tight supply situation,” FII Director Mark McAuley said.

“Builders are coming away from the builder’s merchant without the timber they need to complete a house extension or a new build.

“This is a crazy situation when we have plenty of mature conifer forests in the country and we are having to import timber to keep our building sector supplied.

“This situation would not have arisen were it not for the forestry licence crisis and the failure of the Department of Agriculture to get on top of things.

“It has been two years now and the supply chain is still badly disrupted. We need to find a new approach.”

Price increase 

CIF Director General Tom Parlon highlighted how throughout 2021, homebuilders and construction companies saw huge increases in the price of timber.

“Builders are unable to source the timber they need to complete homes in Irish builder’s merchant and this will impact on the number of houses the industry can deliver in 2021,” he added.

“As we ramp up after a partial lockdown during Covid-19, demand for timber will only increase.

“Ultimately, if cost increases for homebuilding increase enough, housing projects on the margin will be shelved.” 

Lack of urgency

Hardware Association Ireland’s CEO Martin Markey added: “Timber is a keystone product, it is integral to practically every building, renovation, and retrofitting project.

“The Irish timber sector is also a major bulwark in our fight to reduce Co2 emissions.

“The current lack of urgency in processing licences is having a major negative impact on the industry’s ability to supply products to critical housing projects.

“It comes at a time when the hardware sector is experiencing acute shortages and price increases across almost every category.

“Most of these are global supply chain issues and we have little control over them.

"Timber is the exception to this, and decisions made by the Department of Agriculture has a major impact on the sector. We need a breakthrough on this.”

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