Review of Housing Delivery Office urged amid staffing concerns

There have been calls for a review of the Government’s Housing Delivery Office, set up to accelerate delivery of private and social homes, after it emerged it has just three staff.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed the staffing level two years after its establishment.

That has prompted calls for an urgent review of the office with concerns around how the loss of staff and turnover is undermining the special unit’s work.

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien who obtained the details said: “The office should be reviewed as a matter of urgency and the reasons for such loss of staff addressed.

We need oversight of delivery and co-ordination between the various stakeholders to ensure housing targets are met.

The office was established under the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme in August 2016, with the express intention of speeding up the delivery of housing in the private and social sectors.

A parliamentary written reply to Mr O’Brien says that the unit was refocused in September last year to work more closely with supporting local housing and land management.

Mr Murphy told Mr O’Brien that “the current team of three, with service ranging from 3 to 20 months, works closely with the extensive range of highly experienced officers within the wider housing and planning areas of my department and local authorities”.

The minister added: “As with all critical areas of activity in my department, the resources available to the HDO are kept under regular review in the context of ongoing evolution of the office’s role.”

The launch of the Housing Delivery Office was a key part of the Rebuilding Ireland programme. It was pledged it would be “staffed by project management, procurement and technical experts” and support the construction projects, including identifying barriers to delivering homes.

Mr O’Brien said: “Only three people are working in the office less than two years on from its establishment, down from four when it was set up with many original members of the office leaving their posts. The loss of staff and turnover is obviously having an impact on its ability to carry out its task.

“This means that a critical part of the Rebuilding Ireland plan is simply not working. Instead of expanding and building up its experience and expertise it is losing staff. This means its ability to learn lessons from previous plans and address blockages is being lost.”

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that there were an estimated 19,922 ESB connections for the year up to February 2018, the metric by which officials measure new builds. Department figures also show that there were just 1,014 new local authority social homes built last year.

Rebuilding Ireland pledges to provide 50,000 social homes by 2021 and aims for 25,000 private units to be built annually by then.

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