Housing crisis has demoralised a generation, says Taoiseach

Planning review will modernise ‘unduly complicated system’, Martin tells conference

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin said housing was the ‘single most urgent and important social issue facing our country at this moment in time’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said housing was the ‘single most urgent and important social issue facing our country at this moment in time’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The housing crisis has “the potential to be profoundly destabilising” for the country if not responded to appropriately, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told construction industry leaders.

Speaking at the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) annual conference on Thursday, Mr Martin said housing was the “single most urgent and important social issue facing our country at this moment in time” which had “demoralised” a generation of people.

The revised National Development Plan (NDP), due to be launched next week, will incorporate the resources to deliver Housing for All, he said.

The NDP will provide for “unprecedented levels of investment” over the next decade to provide the infrastructure Ireland’s society and economy needs.

The plan will factor climate action into “all investment and project decisions” across all areas of infrastructure, he said.

As Ireland moved into a new phase of managing the pandemic, the Government hoped to “set out a clear path in front of us to push forward and build for the future”.

This would include the provision of serviced sites for housing to attract people to “build their own homes and live in small towns and villages in a sustainable way”, and €3.5 billion in the Land Development Agency to assemble strategic sites in urban areas and to develop social and affordable homes for rent and purchase, the Taoiseach said.

State funding of €75 million is to be provided for the “First Home” shared equity scheme to “incentivise new builds for new buyers in the right places, at the right price points” in order to address the affordability mismatch on new build homes.

New planning arrangements for large scale residential developments as well as a “major overhaul of our planning legislation” led by the Attorney General would “modernise an unduly complicated system,” he said.

Given what was at stake and the scale of investment plans, it was “important that the construction sector has the capacity to meet that demand.”

The combination of the pandemic, Brexit, and spikes in demand were putting pressure on costs and on the supply of certain materials.

“As the global economy recovers and supply levels rebalance, these pressures should recede and it is important that the cost increases do not become permanent,” he said.

Employers would need to “play their part in supporting skills development” through traineeships and apprenticeships.

“We also need to market the sector to young people – highlighting the attractiveness of construction as a career option,” he said.

Covid-19 had a “detrimental impact on the delivery of apprenticeship” and the Government and construction sector would have to work to eliminate the existing backlogs as soon as possible.