Ukrainian refugees: Emergency powers may be used for 35,000 extra homes - Minister

Darragh O’Brien sets out ways being explored to meet housing needs on top of the existing targets

Emergency powers may have to be used to provide as many as 35,000 extra homes for Ukrainian refugees, the Minister for Housing has said.

Darragh O'Brien has said his Department estimates that the homes - over and above those planned for in the Government's Housing for All plan - could be needed over the next five to six years.

He said delivering them will require extra funding and the possible use of emergency planning and procurement powers. The extra housing could come in the form of modular and permanent buildings.

Mr O’Brien said: “Is it going to be a serious challenge to do that? Yes, it is but I think we can”.

The Housing for All plan published last year says Ireland needs to build 33,000 homes per year until 2030 to meet demand. That delivery rate is not due to be reached until 2024 but Mr O'Brien said he believes it can be accelerated. He set out ways being explored to meet the housing needs of Ukrainian refugees in the medium to long-term on top of the existing targets.

He said the target for this year was 24,600 new-build homes and he believes this will be exceeded and that the 33,000 per year target will be reached sooner than envisaged pointing to record numbers of commencements and planning permissions granted.

To deliver more Mr O’Brien said he is looking at emergency powers in the Planning Act that “would a permit a minister to be able to effectively grant permissions in extremis.”

He said there are also emergency powers to expedite procurement of homes.

Mr O’Brien is asking local authorities to identify land serviced with water and electricity that could be used for modular or permanent homes.

He said 500 existing properties that could be converted for use for housing have already been identified and other homes may be provided through refurbishing vacant social housing units.

Mr O’Brien said his Department is still working on estimates for the cost of providing the additional homes.

He was speaking at the official opening of the Focus Ireland Family Centre in Dublin which provides support for homeless families.

Earlier on Wednesday the Dáil heard more than 15,000 people have fled the war in Ukraine to Ireland and the State’s response to accommodating those will “get more challenging in the weeks and months ahead”.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said the accommodation available through local authorities, religious organisations, State bodies and pledged accommodation is unlikely to meet the level of need should the higher estimated numbers of people arriving come to pass in the weeks ahead.

“Current modelling suggests that there is an inevitability to moving into an emergency accommodation phase when pledged and other service supply is exhausted. The only question is how quickly this phase is reached,” he told the Dáil on Wednesday.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times