Taoiseach outlines key to 'making a dent' in housing crisis

Taoiseach outlines key to 'making a dent' in housing crisis

New houses being constructed on the Chilmington development in Ashford, Kent. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday January 13, 2020. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The key to "making a dent" in the housing and rental crisis is "supply of all forms", Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

That includes "private sector, house provision, apartment provision, social housing, affordable housing, cost rental", he added. 

As the lack of housing continues to be a lasting headache for the Government, the dearth of rental properties in Ireland was laid bare this week with just over 850 available across the whole country.

Speaking in Cork, Mr Martin said up to 35,000 home completions a year are now needed over the next decade to "make a dent" in the lack of supply, up from 24,600 due to be completed this year.

"We had two lockdowns which did impact house completions. On the positive side, year to year we have about 35,000 commencements, April to April, which is the highest since 2008. We should be able to reach a target of 24,600 houses completed this year, but we need to get to about 33,000 to 35,000 houses a year over the next 10 years, to really put a dent into this."

He acknowledged the pressure on the construction trade, with anecdotal evidence of a similar dearth of tradespeople to do the jobs required.

"In terms of recruitment, on the apprenticeship side, it has gone up 40%. There is a lot of activity on the apprenticeship side, we have a lot of workers coming in from outside of the EU through the work permit system. A lot of capital investment has been allocated so there is a lot of activity, so there are huge pressure points," he said.

Inflation was the overriding issue for construction presently, he added.

"The pressure point at the moment is inflation, that’s why Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath recently changed the fixed price contract and development framework of cooperation with the industry around contracts that have been entered into prior to this inflationary cycle. 

"The view being can we help contractors in these very exceptional circumstances to complete works, and to tender for future works. There are a lot of challenges there. But the supplies are increasing, there will be a very high number of social houses completed in 2022."

In relation to the ongoing National Maternity Hospital saga, Mr Martin insisted it needed to "move on" and "get it built".

"The decision was taken in 2013 to finally go ahead with this co-location. It is now 2022. It will still take some time to build but we owe it to the women of Ireland, now and into the future, and indeed to newborn babies, to get this hospital built."

He described as "extraordinary" that the only modern co-location that has happened in the last 20 years has been at Cork University Maternity Hospital.

People take part in a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin against the ownership and governance structure of a new National Maternity Hospital. 
People take part in a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin against the ownership and governance structure of a new National Maternity Hospital. 

Mr Martin warned Boris Johnson's Government to "think long and hard about its strategy and its approach" to the Northern Ireland protocol, which has dominated domestic and Northern politics in recent days.

"The British government needs to work professionally with the EU in terms of resolving any issues in relation to the protocol. I have no doubt about the bona fides of the EU and the Commission. 

"I have seen it firsthand through Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, who has worked extremely hard to bring forward compromises, proposals in relation to the operation to the protocol, but has got very little reciprocal responses from the UK government."

The protocol issues needs to go hand in hand with the Northern assembly up and running, he said.

"The UK government needs to put the stability of the political situation in the North first and foremost. These issues can be resolved. I know that unionism stands ready to resolve them as well, and in my view, discussions around the protocol should be parallel with the restoration of the executive and the restoration of the assembly. 

"Democracy means that there is a duty on all parties to fulfil the mandate given to them by the people, and that is to fill up the assembly and set up the executive, and then the executive and the assembly can make a strong contribution to the resolution to the issue around the protocol."

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