The Cork politician seems to be embracing his new portfolio with gusto and certainly has a mammoth task to deal with all the challenges the current housing crisis presents.
Some people living along the Shannon are still suffering from the effects of last winter’s flooding and, if ocean levels continue to rise, areas in large urban centres such as Cork, Waterford and Dublin could be in serious trouble.
Frequency of storms and heavy rainfall give testimony to the reality of climate change and more floods. And there’s no shortage of people offering ideas and proposals.
Tom McDermott, of UCC believes the minimum that can be done is to prevent new building on flood plains. As governments meet the cost of dealing with floods and providing defences, private developers can build on cheap, flood-prone land without bearing the full cost of their actions. As a result, many people end up living in at-risk areas, he says.
We might also benefit from looking at ways in which they are dealing with such issues in England where there is a chronic problem with flooding and where, at times, large sections of towns and cities can be under water.
In Britain, councils are saying developers must introduce new measures to ensure new homes and businesses are better protected against floods. Such proposals — covering new, at-risk properties — could, in the long-term, save thousands of homes from the worst ravages of flooding and hundreds of millions of euro in damage.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, wants the government to bring in mandatory, anti-flood requirements for new homes in building regulations.
These include raised electrical sockets, fuse boxes, controls and wiring above floor level; ventilation brick covers, sealed floors and raised damp-proof courses. For example, if fuse boxes had been on upper rather than ground floors, many families caught in the winter chaos might still have had power.
The call comes as claims arising from flood damage this winter alone is expected to top €6.5bn, in Britain, with thousands of families facing financial difficulty.
Councils have also visited flood-hit areas to collect household items such as carpets and furniture to dispose of them. So far, an average 1.66 tonnes of household goods and freezer waste has had to be removed from each of the 21,000 homes and businesses that have been flooded, the association estimates.