Scheme to lure site staff home ruled out

The housing minister has ruled out introducing a scheme similar to a package offered to nurses to lure back construction workers who emigrated during the recession.

The Government is working with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to ensure there are enough tradespeople to keep up with increased housing demand.

However, the minister, Eoghan Murphy, has said technology now means the same number of people are not needed on building sites: “New technology is going to help us deliver the houses that we need without having the same amount of people.”

Figures released last week reveal that fewer than 15,000 new houses were built last year.

The CSO’s New Dwelling Completions index shows that the number of homes being constructed is well short of the annual demand of between 30,000 and 35,000 which the Government say is needed.

Asked whether a scheme to entice builders and those with a trade back to Ireland is now required, Mr Murphy said: “We certainly have a lot of construction workers that left the country after the crash to seek work abroad. We have €116bn investments under Project Ireland 2040 between now and 2027, a huge amount of construction projects not just in housing but also when it comes to schools, road building and everything else.”

He said a new working group has been set up involving the Department of Housing and the CIF to monitor staff in the sector.

Obviously, we still need people with skills and my department as well as Richard Bruton’s [education] department are running a number of different courses and funding courses that will help give people the skills to work on those sites. We are not talking about the quantity of people that we had back in the day.

Mr Murphy also hit out at Sinn Féin for threatening to table a motion of no-confidence in him, describing it as “an unnecessary distraction” and “potentially reckless behaviour”.

“Our focus as a Government is on fixing the housing sector and getting thousands of homes built. That is what is happening and we need to do that with the Oireachtas working with us so our focus can be on measures that will help build homes and not on unnecessary distractions.”

Meanwhile, a number of councillors are seeking to remove minimum social and affordable housing targets from the development of more than 8,000 homes in Dublin. South Dublin councillors are to meet today and tomorrow to finalise plans for the strategic development zone of the Conburris which stretches from Clondalkin to Lucan.

The original Sinn Féin proposal which passed earlier this year set a minimum of 2,110 social and affordable homes on the 39-hectare site. However, a number of councillors including members of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want this stipulation removed.

The council owns 22% of the residentially zoned land. When added to the Part V social/affordable element of the private land this gives 32%, which is the basis of the targets in the green material alteration, which they claim is too high.


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