The Office of Public Works (OPW) has said it cannot provide the final cost of delivering 700 modular homes for Ukrainian refugees while sites are still being assessed.
Previously the OPW told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the estimated cost of the project would be “in the order of €150 million” when asked about the projected expenditure on the 700 units.
However, amid rising costs for the project it said the cost of the initial 500 homes alone would come to about €140 million. This suggests the cost of the 700 homes now planned will come to more than the €150 million estimate provided to the PAC.
The OPW said it cannot provide a final figure while work is continuing to assess proposed locations.
“The key cost variables are the cost of site development and cost inflation for building materials,” it said. “Many of the sites offered to OPW require a significant infrastructural input, and this only becomes apparent upon a full technical review of each particular site.”
It said the quantity of units on each site also had a bearing on their economic cost. “Generally, the larger the site the better the cost ratio between unit cost and site development costs,” it said. “At present new sites are under consideration to facilitate the additional units. Until that process is completed it is not possible to fully specify a final figure.”
The modular homes project is a key part of the Government’s plan to provide longer-term accommodation for people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Ireland is providing accommodation for more than 71,255 people, including over 51,955 Ukrainians and more than 19,300 international protection applicants from other countries.
According to the Department of Integration about 1,500 people – 800 from Ukraine and 700 from elsewhere – arrived over the Christmas period.
The delivery of the modular units has been slower than hoped due to difficulties in identifying suitable sites and the necessity for community engagement in the areas where they are to be situated. It was originally intended that the first homes would be delivered in November but that date has since been pushed back to early 2023.
The first phase of 206 modular homes are to be installed across five sites in counties Cavan, Cork, Tipperary, Sligo and Mayo.
Further sites are under consideration as part of a second phase of development.
Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said he expected some modular homes to be available by the end of March.
The OPW previously said factors that have led to an increase in costs include the overall inflationary environment in the construction industry; severe supply chain challenges; and the cost of “significant remediation works” at the available sites.
Separately, the department confirmed that 88 people seeking refuge in Ireland are continuing to be accommodated in tents.
The Government had planned to end the practice with the department telling RTÉ last month that tented accommodation would cease once the current residents had all been reaccommodated. It has since emerged that tents are still being used at Knockalisheen centre in Co Clare.
The department said the war in Ukraine and high number of other international protection applicants “continues to put real pressure” on the ability to offer accommodation, resulting in “the largest humanitarian effort in the State’s history”.
It said it would “endeavour to ensure that the use of tents at Knockalisheen is a short-term measure but in the context of the accommodation shortage the priority must remain on providing shelter”.