Sir, – The Government very recently made the decision to allow a certain amount of social housing projects to resume construction work at a number of approved sites around the country ("Up to 1,000 social housing units to be completed, says Housing Agency", News April 20th). This was done in consultation with the Housing Agency, but the public have been left entirely in the dark in this regard.
There is a worrying lack of transparency in Government decision-making at the moment. We have been told that these particular social housing sites have been given the green light on the basis that they have been deemed “urgent”. And this is undeniably the case – these projects are urgent. It is extremely important to allow those living in emergency accommodation to get into proper homes without delay.
That said, there is something unsettling in the Government being able to approve silently the reopening of a specific number of construction projects around the country, in spite of the lockdown, and in fact, in contravention of the very strict wording of the Covid-19 regulations as to what is deemed an “essential servie”’, without similarly allowing other construction projects to resume.
If the Government can bend its own rules in making a unilateral decision to allow such projects to continue, then why not other types of construction projects where social distancing measures can effectively be put in place?
Housing is, in and of itself, essential, and prior to the pandemic, housing was seen as the main crisis affecting the country and the top priority on the Government’s agenda.
There are vacant construction sites littered around the country right now, but there are also individual domestic construction or renovation projects which have been abandoned, leaving families in very difficult situations.
Small-scale building contractors have also been greatly affected and may not be in a position to take a project back up if construction work cannot resume in the very near future.
The unilateral move in relation to the reopening of only certain construction sites shows that important decisions affecting the public interest, are being made behind closed doors, and there is absolutely no justification for this.
By quietly allowing some projects to resume work, but not others, there is quite clearly a hushed acceptance on the part of Government that construction is a priority area which cannot be ignored for much longer.
But, simply put, there cannot be one rule for one and one for another.
A clear and transparent strategy in relation to the re-opening of the construction sector as a whole must be put in place now.
The public do not deserve to be left in the dark as the economic ramifications of the pandemic begin to show. – Yours, etc,