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cabinet agenda

Building commencements on new homes hit approximately 18,000 in April alone, Cabinet to hear

Business supports, the sale of cigarettes and childcare reforms are also up for discussion today.

APPROXIMATELY 18,000 HOUSING commencement notices were received in April, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is expected to tell Cabinet today. 

Ahead of preliminary data being published on Thursday, the minister will outline the data on the 18,000 commencements, which are described by those in government as “unprecedented for any month on record”. 

It is understood it represents in a single month over half of last year’s total commencements.

A commencement notice is a notification to a building control authority that construction of new home is to be carried out. The notice must be given to the authority not more than 28 days and not less than 14 days before the commencement of works.

Earlier this year, Cabinet agreed to a Development Levy Waiver Scheme, which meant builders of new-build homes would not have to pay a development levy, so long as the commencement of on-site work began not earlier than April 25th 2023, and no later than April 24th 2024. 

Those in the department are putting the large number of commencements for April down to the waiver scheme deadline imposed by government. 

At the time of the announcement of the waiver scheme, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin hit out at the move. 

While the waiver may make some smaller housing schemes more viable, he said, in most cases it would “simply boost larger developers’ and investors’ profits”. He added that there was no way to ensure that the savings to the builder are passed onto the purchaser or the tenant.

At today’s Cabinet meeting, O’Brien will also update his ministerial colleagues on first-time buyer activity, which indicates that some 17,492 homes, including 5,433 new homes, have been purchased by first-time buyers in the year to end-February 2024.

‘We have to do more’

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk yesterday, Taoiseach Simon Harris said housing supply “is increasing and increasing fast”.

“Over 12,000 new homes commenced construction in the first three months of this year. That is a 60% increase,” he said. 

“But we have to do more. We have to look at how we can be more ambitious. And I’m very, very clear, I don’t want anybody at home thinking that I’m anything other than restless to make more progress on housing supply,” said Harris. 

In addition, at today’s Cabinet meeting, O’Brien will ask government to add County Sligo to the remediation scheme for homes damaged by defective concrete blocks.

One of the main discussion points of today’s Cabinet meeting will be reforms of asylum seeker supports. 

It has been signalled in recent weeks that signalled that there will be further changes to payments for Ukrainians seeking protection in Ireland.

Ireland has granted more than 105,000 temporary protection orders since the start of the war, and almost 72,000 international protection applicants are in State-provided accommodation.

“It shouldn’t be whether you came one month (ago) or not that you get a different level of support,” the Taoiseach said yesterday.

Business supports 

Business Minister Peter Burke will also bring a memo to Cabinet aimed at responding to increased costs associated with running small businesses. 

The new enterprise support package aims to assist in particular, retail and hospitality businesses.

It is expected to allow businesses to claim 50% of last year’s rates bill up to €10,000, giving business owners a maximum grant of €5,000.

Hitting out at the announcement, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly has said the government are now kite-flying changes to reissue the underspend of the Increased Cost of Business (ICOB) Scheme to help some businesses, but not others, in a way which could pit SMEs against each other.

Childcare scheme

Separately today, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman will seek Government approval for a new childcare funding model for children experiencing disadvantage – akin to the DEIS model in schools.

The new funding model, called Equal Start, will include supports targeted at childcare settings operating in areas of disadvantage, as well as child-targeted and universal supports.

Around 800 settings and more than 35,000 children in these settings are expected to benefit from the setting-targeted supports.

The rollout will commence in September 2024, with €4.5m provided this year – equivalent to €13.5m in a full year – to support initial actions that will include funding for additional staff time.

The full plan will be launched next week.

As reported by The Journal yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will today be seeking approval for the drafting of a Bill to increase the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products from age 18 to age 21.

The proposal to raise the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products is aimed to reduce smoking prevalence and ultimately reduce the disease, disability and death and economic costs that it brings.

It’s 20 years since the then Minister for Health Micheal Martin brought in the smoking ban, but smoking and exposure to second smoke still kills 90 people per week or 4,500 per year in Ireland. 

Education Minister Norma Foley, along with Minister O’Gorman will also bring a new strategy for literacy, numeracy and digital literacy that will run from this year until 2033.

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