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Rapid-build modular homes completed in Poppintree in 2016. Sasko Lazarov
Housing

Government plans to roll out rapid-build houses to deal with 'enormous' housing crisis

Taoiseach says rapid-builds must play a role in the housing solution.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Oct 2022

PLANS ARE BEING developed by Government to increase the roll out of rapid-build houses, over and above the 700 modular homes that will be used to house Ukrainian refugees, so they can be used more broadly to deal with the housing crisis, according 

A number of sites have been identified around the country where modular homes will be built to accommodate refugees arriving from Ukraine, with land on army barrack sites also set to be used. 

While there had been plans to have these houses built by November, it is understood it is more likely that they will be ready for refugees in the new year. 

However, speaking in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach said rapid-build homes have to form part of the solution when it comes to tackling the country’s “enormous” housing crisis. 

“Housing is the biggest issue facing us as a society. And we’ve got to facilitate all construction types,” he said.

At tonight’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the movement of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war to seek sanctuary here has never been experienced to this level before in this country.

Varadkar said it was an entirely new situation for this country and an event not seen in Europe since the 1940s.

He added that he wanted to see the establishment of a multi-million euro community fund for areas which have welcomed a lot of refugees to improve public facilities such as schools, public transports, community and sporting facilities etc.

Of the 55,000 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland, approximately 12,000 are in schools, 10,000 are working and paying taxes and a further 1,000 in third level/higher education.

Varadkar said we will not turn any refugees away but the welfare/accommodation supports will remain a real constraint.

He said that rapid build housing needed to be built on suitable sites to assist with housing.

High quality units 

The Taoiseach said today he prefers the term ‘rapid-build’ rather than ‘modular’ “because these are good quality, high quality houses, that come at a significant cost per unit”. 

In his view, rapid-build houses will “have to form part of the wider housing and building programme that we have into the future”.

The companies that build these rapid-build homes require certainty in terms of the volumes that need to be constructed, said Micheál Martin.

“In addition to more conventional type build houses, we need more rapid-build, we need more timber frame homes as well. We’re unusually low percentage wise on timber frame houses compared to other countries like Scotland,” he added.

“Therefore, we are developing plans now to get additional rapid-builds over and above the 700 that we’ve already identified in respect of the Ukrainian situation, and that they would be used more broadly,” said Martin.

He said the capacity exists in the country to roll out more rapid-builds quickly.

“Other countries are doing that as well… if we get the first projects off the ground, people will develop more confidence in this form of housing,” he said. 

Modular homes debate

The debate around rapid-builds and modular homes has been discussed since 2015, with concerns raised regarding their quality, cost and completion delays.

A report in 2018, Home at Last, published by Dublin City Council detailed the experiences of residents of the first two rapid-build developments in the north of the city – in Ballymun and Finglas – with the majority of residents reporting to be happy with the houses. 

Screenshot - 2022-10-26T124322.946

The Taoiseach was responding to Independent TD for Louth Peter Fitzpatrick, who said he knew of a site in his constituency being ready to accommodate over 152 modular homes, but it has yet to be commenced. 

The Taoiseach asked him to supply the details to the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, stating that if there is a person that can provide hundreds of rapid-build houses on a particular site “we should we should facilitate that and enable that to be accelerated as quickly as we can because there’s enormous need out there”.

‘Enormity of the challenge’

The Taoiseach said there has to be a “mindset change” when it comes to the enormity of the housing challenge, adding that people have to stop objecting to developments “left, right and centre to various projects that are coming forward because the scale of the housing need is such that we just have to get progress on planning permissions”.

“There have been too many objections over the last number years, there’s no point in saying otherwise – objections which do not match the crisis,” he said.

“The scale of this is quite enormous,” said the Taoiseach. 

Martin also said local authorities must move quickly to get voids back into use. 

Over, 7,000 voids have been brought back into use in the two years the Government came into office, he said. 

“The minister has put particular attention on making sure that houses are not left idle for any unreasonable length of time, that local authorities get in there, we provided the funding to get those houses back into use. Because given the current crisis, it’s not good enough that any house will be left void for any period of time,” he added.

Speaking today about the new measures to deal with the capacity shortage in relation to refugees from Ukraine and other countries, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said disused army barracks and modular homes are among the measures being considered by government to help plug the accommodation crisis for refugees.

Old army sites could be quickly converted to house Ukrainians as the State struggles with the rising number of people seeking refuge. 

Humphreys defended the Government’s handling of the crisis, saying it is doing everything it can.

“We did have a Cabinet meeting on Monday and there’s a number of proposals being brought forward, such as increasing the amount of support that we give to families who take Ukrainians into their homes.

“We’re looking at identifying other possible opportunities in terms of maybe old disused army barracks that could be quickly converted, we’re looking at modular homes, so we’re doing everything we can.

“I think it’s important to say that this is something that it shouldn’t be an us and them.”

The Government also has plans to encourage more people to host families or individuals fleeing Ukraine.

Hundreds of people offered up rooms in their home at the outbreak of the war but many have not been used because of delays in garda vetting.

“We will try and work our way through doing all that we can to ensure that we can get accommodation as quickly as possible for people who come here,” Humphreys added.

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