Minister for Housing defends role in tackling housing crisis

‘All tools and incentives are there’ for developers to build more homes – Murphy

Eoghan Murphy said his department has been applying the recommendations of a report which said high-rise apartments were not an optimal solution. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Eoghan Murphy said his department has been applying the recommendations of a report which said high-rise apartments were not an optimal solution. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has insisted “all the tools and incentives” are there for developers to build more homes to tackle the housing crisis.

He said his department has been – “for quite some time” – applying the recommendations of a report which said high-rise apartments were not an optimal solution.

One of the key findings of the report, published last week by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, was that high-rise apartment buildings did not necessarily increase the density of housing developments.

“Contrary to common understanding, higher rise development can be a more expensive form of development,” it said, noting increased structural requirements and fire safety considerations for high-rise buildings tended to push up the costs.

We have all heard the excuses, but the tools and incentives are there

The “optimal height” was six storeys, according to the internal report, entitled Review of Delivery Costs and Viability for Affordable Residential Developments.

Mr Murphy said the information contained in the report had been known for quite some time and had been applied in all housing policy, updating the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland, since his appointment last summer.

“That is why we improved the apartment guidelines, for example, why we effectively waived levies, why we are using State land to build affordable homes. It is also why we have a new finance vehicle on the way,” he said.

“We have all heard the excuses, but the tools and incentives are there.

“House building is increasing quite dramatically but more can be built. Almost 18,000 homes commenced construction in the last 12 months, while 20,000 new homes have received planning permission.”

However, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) lecturer Lorcan Sirr queried those figures in a Tweet this weekend, saying that commencement notices were not an accurate reflection of new homes being built. He said the figure for the past 12 months was closer to 9,500.

The report does says that high rise buildings, from seven to 10 storeys, should be considered in certain locations to avoid urban sprawl.

Long delays

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin queried the long delays in publishing the report and also said it had merely looked at construction costs, rather than the price of land, which comprised 60 per cent of the sale price in certain locations.

“Land is the big problem. With some developments in Dublin, the sale price of the house is purely for the land,” he said.

Fianna Fáil supports the Government’s housing policy. That’s why a change of personnel in their front bench has changed nothing

He also criticised the scope of the report, which he said was too narrow. He said innovative schemes were not examined, such as the Ó Cualann affordable scheme in Poppintree, Ballymun, or a new passive house initiative in Cork where a company is constructing houses to a passive standard at €100,000 per unit, some €40,000 less than the standard price.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy’s spokesman criticised comments by Fianna Fáil’s new housing spokesman, Darragh O’Brien, in a media interview in which he described the Minister for Housing and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as elitist and cosseted from the housing crisis.

“Fianna Fáil supports the Government’s housing policy. That’s why a change of personnel in their front bench has changed nothing,” the spokesman said. “Personal attacks reveal a lack of policy on their part.”

However, Mr O’Brien insisted it was not a personalised attack.

“My point is that the Government does not get the issue and does not have a feel for it. It has declared an emergency and I do not see too much in the way of an emergency response there,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Mr Ó Broin described Mr O’Brien’s comments as “rhetoric”.