Construction industry warns of another property bubble

Group seeks simpler planning laws and shorter apprenticeships.

The construction industry is warning of another property bubble as the housing and homelessness crisis continues to escalate.

The sector is calling for simpler planning laws, Vat reductions, and accelerated infrastructure which it says is required to stimulate house building.

The industry believes the length of some apprenticeships should be shortened to one year to make sure there are enough qualified brick layers, roofers, and other construction workers to keep up with demand.

Guaranteed Irish, which has 300 members nationwide, yesterday held a roundtable event in Dublin where those in the building industry put forward recommendations they believe will help the housing emergency. They will be putting these to the Government.

Guaranteed Irish surveyed members ahead of the meeting and found that 28% feel problems in the broader housing sector are impacting on their work; 12% are concerned by a lack of skilled labour and associated recruitment difficulties.

Chief executive Brid O’Connell said: “Our members are hampered by rising costs in the construction sector, as well as the fact that insufficient numbers of houses are being built. 

Lack of balanced growth in the regions was also highlighted as a concern, as was the difficulty in accessing finance for working capital.

“Members are concerned by talk of another property bubble emerging. What they really want is balanced development within the sector, rather than the ‘peak and trough’ trends we witnessed in previous decades.”

Ms O’Connell said a number of suggestions will be forwarded to Government ahead of the budget, including Vat reductions for critical supplies, acceleration of infrastructure, and speeding up the planning process.

Paddy Kelly, managing director of Tegral, who attended the meeting, said: “The Government needs to make it easier for apprenticeships — not every apprenticeship needs to be four years, so if you look at roof-building, maybe it could be a one-year apprenticeship where electrical and mechanical needs to stay at four years.”

Tom Parlon, director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), said it is still difficult for builders to get to construction stage.

“We do have a crisis, homelessness is just something that nobody in this country can be proud of. It’s a disgrace that people are dying on the streets,” he said. “We need to deal with the crisis, the only people who are going to build the houses are the builders. The builders are Irish-based, they are all major employers of Irish labour, and they are major buyers of Irish products. We just need to change our mindset and the Government need to look at that seriously.”

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey said she would bring the recommendations back to the Oireachtas housing committee and the Government.

“We have the opportunity for the construction industry to grow by another 100,000 in next three to four years but we need to put in place an awareness campaign or supports systems for people to go into apprenticeships and recognise the companies that are actually providing apprenticeships and training their staff,” she said.

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