March 5 construction deadline could be missed by a month

April has been identified as a far more likely timeframe for a return to meaningful levels of construction, Cabinet sources have said
March 5 construction deadline could be missed by a month

The Level 5 shutdown is resulting in 700 to 800 fewer houses being built every week. Stock Picture: PA

The Government's deadline of a March 5 return for construction looks set to be missed by up to a month.

Cabinet sources say it is "far more likely to be April" before a meaningful return happens.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the Government's revised Living With Covid Plan, Cabinet ministers said the delay in schools returning as well as the stubbornly high rate of infection, means the original deadline is in jeopardy.

"What you might see is some limited movement on construction in March but a full re-opening of construction is now more likely in April," said one minister.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien said he still hopes building sites can reopen in March, but a final decision will be made next month.

Asked about the easing of level 5 restrictions, which has resulted in 700 to 800 fewer houses being built each week, Mr O'Brien said: "Obviously we have a target date there of March 5, a review will happen next week.

"I've been working with stakeholders in the sector, I fully recognise the essential nature of providing homes for people, Government does as well, but it is a Government-wide decision.

"The first and foremost is public safety, making sure we're suppressing the virus."

Meanwhile, Mr O'Brien defended his proposed shared equity scheme despite concerns from the ERSI part of the bill "will very likely lead to higher house prices".

The plan offers equity loans of up to 30% on new-build homes under €400,000.

He said he would be pressing ahead with the measures which he said will be "targeted at those who need them" and will be "focused very, very much" on first-time buyers with regional price caps in place.

Government TDs were accused of trying to force the ERSI to change their opening statement when they came before the housing committee to discuss the issue this week.

Mr O'Brien said: "The ESRI were able to clarify the fact that they hadn't looked at some of the supply side that are in the bill and that's absolutely fine. clearly was there is merit to shared equity arrangements when they're targeted at the right people."

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