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Example of modular housing in Ballymun in Dublin. SASKO LAZAROV

Not one modular home ready for Ukrainian refugees as government way off target of 700

The programme aims to house people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

ONLY SEVEN SITES for modular homes to accommodate families fleeing the war in Ukraine have been found so far by the state. In total, the sites have a capacity for 312 rapid-build homes.

The plans for the sites, which are spread across the country, are part of the government’s humanitarian efforts to the Ukrainian crisis. However, the current numbers are some way short of the government’s own target of 700 modular homes.

Plans for a combined 74 homes have also been scrapped at two separate locations due to infrastructural issues on the chosen sites.

In June last year, the government approved the plans for 500 modular units to house 2,000 Ukrainians with Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman saying that the first of the homes would be completed in November, and all 500 in place in late February or early March this year.

Then in October, Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, said that it was expected that the first homes would be complete by “January and February” of 2023 – but this has now been pushed back until June.

In December the original 500 target was upped to 700 by the Government.

Not one unit has been delivered yet. 

Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan said the low delivery of rapid-build housing “smacks of the government making a high-level decision and then not putting in the work to implement” the programme.  

Shortly after returning to the office of Taoiseach last December, Leo Varadkar outlined how he was keen to see more modular homes built to tackle the housing crisis.

He said at the time that the government would “save months” as rapid-build houses could be provided “much quicker” to ease pressures, with the Office of Public Works (OPW) tasked with settling on a target for how many homes can be built.

Varadkar said in December:“The question I’ve asked [the OPW] is how many can you do? When they tell me how many they can do, I’ll say ‘let’s make that happen’.”

It is understood the OPW ordered 700 units at that juncture in December. Earlier this month, the Irish Times reported that those orders were placed with a number of suppliers “in an apparent bid to avoid higher costs in the new year”. 

How the build works

Modular houses are units assembled off-site in a factory using the same standards and regulations as traditional homes. They are built in “modules”, which are then assembled and installed on the final site.

The main selling point of modular housing is speed, with the ability to assemble the homes on site in as little as four hours. They range from adapted pre-fab units to regular-looking bungalows.

This particular programme aims to provide short-term accommodation to 2,000 Ukrainians at several sites across Ireland.

However, the proposed sites require assessments to ensure they are appropriate for the building of homes and, to date, only a handful have progressed to construction phase.

The below locations have been selected to date to provide modular homes:

  • 30 homes in Cavan town;
  • 64 in Mahon, Co Cork;
  • 62 in Thurles, Co Tipperary;
  • 22 in Doorly Park, Co Sligo;
  • 28 in Claremorris, Co Mayo;
  • 64 in Clonminch, Co Offaly:
  • 42 in Rathdowney, Co Laois.

Sites are initially identified by councils and the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government, with a process to assess their suitability then carried out by the OPW.

The modular homes programme has become a target for anti-migrant demonstrators with confrontations taking place at some sites. Last month, workmen surveying a site in Carlow were allegedly attacked with one man requiring medical treatment afterwards.

Dublin Bay North TD O’Callaghan said the delays show that while the government “talk about modular housing as a quick fix solution, it doesn’t work if you don’t find sites” to build the homes.

“It’s hard to understand that we’re more than a year in with the Ukraine war and at this late stage that’s as far as they’ve managed to get. In terms of finding the sites, that’s something that should have been sorted out last summer,” he said.

“It really does show just how slow they’ve been at this, given the accommodation need, that people at times have been living in tents and in some very overcrowded accommodation.”

Department response

When contacted by The Journal, the Department of Integration outlined the reasons why some sites have not been deemed suitable.

Plans for the sites in Co Waterford and Co Cork, which were to contain a combined 74 houses, were overturned following inspections.

“In some cases sites identified have been found not to be suitable due to different reasons including flooding, restricted site access, no adjacent power or water supply, lack of drainage infrastructure and cost viability,” a spokesperson said.

“Work is already well underway on the first phase of 7 sites, with the delivery of units already happening on a number of those sites in preparation for the start of a phased occupation over the next few months,” the department said, adding that the first of the sites at Mahon in Cork and Cavan town will be ready for people to move in “from mid-June” onwards.

“This is subject to any technical issues arising during construction. There were a number of such issues that arose over the past few months relating to site conditions, remedial works, boundaries, etc that delayed earlier forecasted dates of completion on sites included in the programme.”

The OPW told The Journal that it continues to examine a “range of sites” alongside other government agencies and local authorities, in order “to deliver the required 700 units on State-owned sites around the country”.

“It is important to note that while local authorities have some sites in their ownership, many of these are earmarked for future housing development and may not be readily available for this programme,” a spokesperson for the OPW told The Journal.

A spokesperson added that information on the number of sites originally earmarked for modular homes – but that have since been deemed unsuitable – is “not available at this time”.

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