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Up to 35,000 new homes may be needed to house Ukrainian refugees, says Housing Minister

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the planning system was a drawback to activating housing developments.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Mar 30th 2022, 5:56 PM

UP TO 35,000 additional homes may need to be delivered to accommodate Ukrainian refugees permanently in Ireland, the Housing Minister has said.

This would come alongside current Government targets to build 33,000 houses a year under their Housing for All strategy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said that due to the devastation caused by the Russian war in Ukraine, Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland are likely to stay “for a sustained period of time”.

“We’ve seen the devastation that has been festered upon some of the cities there. They’ll be, you know, uninhabitable for a number of years,” O’Brien said.

“It is more than likely that many of our Ukrainian friends that are here are going to stay for a sustained period of time.

“We are going to have to look at providing permanent housing solutions in that space some of the research that we’ve done and work that we’ve done in relation to planning for this, we could potentially require up to an additional 35,000 homes over the period of time should we be looking at permanently accommodating.”

O’Brien did clarify that some of these would be refurbishments of vacant properties and that not all of them would be new builds.

He also said that they would likely be needed over the next five to six-year period, meaning an average of 5,800 additional houses would need to be built each year too hit targets.

Speaking to reporters this evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that one of the biggest drawbacks to getting additional housing built was the planning system, due to the length of time it takes to get projects approved.

“I think on the planning side we’re going to have to look at capacity over time in terms of getting projects delivered,” Martin said.

“That is the biggest drawback we have right now is the fact that it’s taking so long to get various projects through our systems.”

It comes as the Government said that Citywest Convention Centre is to be used as an ‘overflow’ processing centre for Ukrainian refugees if Dublin Airport’s processing centre is overwhelmed.

The measure was discussed yesterday at Cabinet, with Government ministers being told that as of Monday night, 14,611 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Ireland.

A Government spokesperson confirmed yesterday that approximately 21,000 Ukrainian refugees will have arrived in Ireland by Easter, then rising to 30,000 by the end of April.

Approximately 600 refugees are arriving in Ireland each day.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that 4 million refugees have fled from Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Approximately 6.5 million people are displaced from their homes within Ukraine.

O’Brien said that’s believed that there would be some temporary accommodation provided through modular housing but that they will not be the main solution to the crisis.

“There is an impression abroad sometimes that modular homes will be the solution to everything and they’re there to have a role in it, but they’re not.

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“Will there be a requirement for some temporary type accommodation through modular homes? I think so.”

Martin reinforced messaging from O’Brien, that modular housing would be an “innovative” solution while in a wartime situation.

“I think we have to look at modular construction, for example, in terms of emergency that’s upon us,” Martin said.

“That won’t be immediate, you have to take a number of months and so on, but we have to be innovative in our response now at what is a wartime situation.”

When asked where these homes could be placed, O’Brien said that he had asked local authorities to identify vacant serviced sites that are either zoned or unzoned that could be used.

“If we’re to provide these additional homes that we’ve just discussed, we’re going to need sites to do that,” O’Brien said.

“It could be anywhere around the country, but we will have a certain criteria around site selection, obviously they’ve got to be serviced with water, wastewater and electricity. They’ve got to have good road access. You don’t want people isolated.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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