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Government urged to 'apply more dynamic thinking' to solving housing crisis

An Oireachtas Housing Committee report has been critical of the government’s approach to solving the housing crisis.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been urged to rethink its Rebuilding Ireland policy in light of Brexit and “apply more dynamic thinking” to solve the housing crisis. 

A report by the Oireachtas Housing Committee has been critical of the government’s approach to solving the housing crisis. It has raised a number of concerns relating to construction in Ireland post-Brexit. 

The committee highlighted that it is concerned that the current housing policy may not be robust enough to withstand the potential impacts of Brexit and whether Rebuilding Ireland can “remain as the current blueprint for tackling the issues of housing and homelessness”. 

Construction concerns

The committee warned that delays in construction completion times could occur if there are changes to the Customs Union following Brexit. 

It warned that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, construction products could be subject to more customs checks at the Irish border. 

“This is of particular concern to the committee as witnesses explained that these changes could have negative effects on the housing market,” the report said. 

Since the committee held its meetings in November, the government has published its contingency plans for Brexit. Included in these plans is the expansion of Dublin and Rosslare ports for increased customs checks.

The committee has welcomed these plans, but said they should be “acted on as soon as possible to ensure interruptions to the supply chain following Brexit are minimal”. 

The committee said it is of the opinion that the availability of skilled construction workers is another factor that could impact significantly on construction project completion times following Brexit.

In its evidence to the committee, Proporty Industry Ireland (PII) outlined that Ireland will need a minimum of 80,000 workers in the construction sector in the coming years. 

It said that its position is that “attraction and retention of talent is one of the biggest issues facing the construction industry at present”. 

The labour market has traditionally relied on fluidity between the UK and Ireland to fill skill gaps, something that is true in the construction sector, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) outlined to the committee. 

“The committee is concerned that changes to the Single Market, which allows for the free movement of people throughout the EU, will make it more difficult to fill the skills shortage in the construction industry following Brexit,” the report said. 

‘More dynamic solution’

The committee noted that while Brexit is a concern for the housing sector, it agreed with witnesses that “more must be done to address the current dysfunction in the housing sector”. 

The committee is of the opinion that if this was addressed the sector would be less vulnerable to one-off shocks such as Brexit. 

Ultimately, the committee is of the opinion that moving forward the government needs to apply more dynamic thinking to solving the housing crisis.

It added that while Brexit will create some additional barriers, it is of the opinion that most of the weaknesses highlighted exist regardless. 

“It believes that these issues need to be addressed if Ireland is to develop a robust housing sector capable of meeting current and future demands,” it said. 

The committee recommended that housing protections such as Rent Pressure Zones need to be strengthened to protect tenants from being adversely affected by sharp increases in housing demand. 

It also recommended that the Department of Housing should develop contingency plans for the short to medium term impacts on housing in the years following Brexit. 

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