Shortage of builders is delaying housing

A shortage of builders and construction skills in Kerry is preventing vacant properties from being done up, a county council meeting has been told.

Unskilled labourers are in shortage, but so are highly skilled workers.

While council targets are being met in repair of old stock, labour is an growing challenge, as is the falling number of houses for sale.

The county has 3,139 qualified applicants and a housing stock of 4,207, most of it rented. Within the figure are vacant properties that need to be repaired.

Currently, there are 67 vacant properties in need of repair.

The number of vacant council properties is half what it was in June 2016, but the turnaround would be greater if builders and skills were more widely available in Kerry, said housing director Martin O’Donoghue.

By the end of 2017, 100 new houses will have been started by the council and 200 are planned for 2018, said Mr O’Donoghue.

The council’s housing targets are also challenged by a decreasing availability of houses for sale.

“The council set a target of 50 house purchases in 2017, under the acquisition programme, and at the end of October, 2017 we have ‘sale agreed’ on 49 houses,” , said Mr O’Donoghue. “With availability decreasing, 50 is a great achievement this year.”

Meanwhile, 289 council tenants wanted to purchase their properties, the meeting in Tralee was told.

Amid calls to use up idle land banks in Kenmare and Killorglin, the council is reviewing its housing lands with a view to finalising proposals and will put forward a plan before the year’s end.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Culloty, who is involved in construction, said there is a “huge shortage of building skills in Kerry”.

“It’s very hard to get school-leavers interested in physical work,” he said.

Many builders have left Kerry and more travel daily to Cork and Limerick.

Mr Culloty said a programme needs to be put in place by Solas, the training agency, to attract people into the building industry.

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