It’s not a pretty pic­ture – sup­ply is nowhere near where it needs to be

Irish Independent - - News - Paul Melia En­vi­ron­ment Editor

WE HAVE known for some time that there is a prob­lem with ac­cu­rately as­sess­ing the num­ber of new houses and apart­ments be­ing built ev­ery year, and these fig­ures fi­nally rep­re­sent some­thing ap­proach­ing the true pic­ture.

Un­til the Cen­tral Statis­tics Of­fice (CSO) be­came in­volved last year, the of­fi­cial stats pro­duced by the Depart­ment of Hous­ing stated that 85,154 new homes had been built be­tween 2011 and 2017.

The CSO said the more ac­cu­rate num­ber is 53,578 – a dif­fer­ence of 31,576. That rep­re­sents more than a year’s sup­ply un­der the Gov­ern­ment’s ‘Re­build­ing Ire­land’ plan to tackle the hous­ing cri­sis.

Two peo­ple have re­ally been bang­ing the drum about the lack of ac­cu­rate data, and it’s worth high­light­ing their con­tri­bu­tion.

Hous­ing lec­turer Lor­can Sirr and ar­chi­tect Mel Reynolds have re­peat­edly high­lighted is­sues, and both sug­gest that the CSO’s role in gath­er­ing data will help pro­vide a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture of what’s go­ing on.

Apart from the valu­able con­tri­bu­tion from the CSO around new-build fig­ures, it makes some use­ful and nec­es­sary rec­om­men­da­tions.

Se­nior statis­ti­cian Kieran Cul­hane noted that there were a wide va­ri­ety of data sources around house com­ple­tions.

These in­clude the Build­ing En­ergy Rat­ings sys­tem, the build­ing con­trol man­age­ment sys­tem op­er­ated by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, planning per­mis­sion data­bases, geodi­rec­tory, stamp duty re­turns, the Lo­cal Prop­erty Tax data­base, sep­tic tank reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem and Home­bond reg­is­tra­tions.

And yet de­spite all of these, there is no “sin­gle, au­thor­i­ta­tive” source.

“These ad­min­is­tra­tive datasets which are avail­able are frag­mented and tend to ei­ther over or un­der­rep­re­sent ac­tual new dwelling com­ple­tions in any given time pe­riod, mean­ing that taken in iso­la­tion, none can pro­vide an ac­cu­rate count,” Mr Cul­hane said.

The so­lu­tion was to use Eir­codes, he said. When planning per­mis­sion was granted for one or 100 units, each one should be al­lo­cated an Eir­code.

When the lo­cal au­thor­ity was told the house was un­der con­struc­tion, and later com­pleted, a record would be cre­ated of that prop­erty.

When it was sold, Rev­enue would note it for stamp duty pur­poses, so the unit could be tracked through the sys­tem, giv­ing an ac­cu­rate pic­ture into the fu­ture.

While the Gov­ern­ment can rightly claim that house­build­ing is in­creas­ing, and the num­ber of va­cant homes re­turn­ing to use is on the rise, this is not a rosy pic­ture. Sup­ply is nowhere near where it needs to be.

These fig­ures have im­pli­ca­tions, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to hous­ing strat­egy, but across the wider con­struc­tion sec­tor too. Does the in­dus­try have the ca­pac­ity to ramp up sup­ply?

“When you think about ca­pac­ity to build, we’re nearly at full em­ploy­ment and have a skills short­age, so the chances of go­ing to 20,000 or 23,000 units this year is very slim,” said UCD lec­turer Orla He­garty.

“If you have to wait for brick­lay­ers, plas­ter­ers or plumbers, ev­ery­thing has to wait and so it has a knock-on de­lay. I think they’ve taken their eye off the ball.

“There’s no sin­gle gov­ern­ment depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion, it’s scat­tered all over the place.”

The Gov­ern­ment must now im­ple­ment the CSO’s rec­om­men­da­tions, and be­gin to ac­cept that arise in con­struc­tion of new homes isn’t enough. It’s all about the num­bers.

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