Rising timber prices sparked by Government delays in issuing forestry permits are forcing house-buyers to pay up to €15,000 extra for newly-built homes, industry figures warn.
A Department of Agriculture backlog in applications for forestry licences, needed to fell or plant trees, and to build roads to transport logs is squeezing supplies of timber needed for home-building.
The shortage has driven up the cost of frequently-used building products by 75 per cent, adding up to €15,000 to the cost of new homes, according to key industry bodies.
Builders say that the cost of 16ft lengths of four inch by two inch planks, frequently used to support walls within houses, has risen 75 per cent this year alone.
Director general of the Construction Industry Federation, Tom Parlon, said house-builders had seen "huge" increases in the price of timber through this year. "What's frustrating is that whilst other input costs have been driven by Covid-19, global demand and Brexit, our timber crisis has been caused by Kildare Street."
Mr Parlon warned the crisis could hit the number of houses that the industry would build in 2021 as construction companies were unable to get the timber they needed from suppliers. “There is no point announcing billions of euro investment in the Summer Economic Statement or new housing policies if these rudimentary bureaucratic issues are not resolved.”
Hardware Association Ireland chief executive Martin Markey said timber was needed in practically every new building, renovation or retrofitting.
“Our members are telling us that builders are walking away from projects and postponing them indefinitely,” he warned.
Mr Markey said prices rises in other materials resulted from global problems, but the timber crisis was the exception as Department of Agriculture decisions had a major impact on supplies. “We need a breakthrough on this.”
Forests planted by the State or with government aid in the 1980s and 1990s have matured, leaving the Republic with more than enough timber to supply its own needs. However, licensing lags mean the trees cannot be cut.
Mark McAuley, director of Forestry Industry Ireland, affiliated to business lobby Ibec, claimed licensing delays had disrupted supplies for two years.
“This is a crazy situation when we have plenty of mature conifer forests in the country and we are having to import timber to keep our building sector supplied.”
He pointed out that supply shortages were reining in timber frame house builders who should be expanding their businesses to meet demand for “faster, greener” construction.
The groups also warned that licensing delays left the State at risk of missing climate change targets. Just 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres) of new forest were planted last year, against the Government’s aim of 8,000 (19,768 acres).
They added that while the Government wanted more timber used in building, its licensing system would not facilitate this.
Responding to similar complaints recently, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett said 411 licences were issued in June of this year.
They noted that the department had hired extra ecologists, inspectors and administrators to process licence applications.