The Irish Government’s ‘Housing for All Plan’ is ambitious with an annual investment of €4bn aimed to deliver 33,000 new homes per year or 300,000 homes by 2030.
The plan goes beyond any previous efforts to tackle the issue and has been broadly welcomed by those in the industry. But what does this mean for Tradespeople and Trade Professionals?
Following is a summary of the main points of the 'Housing for All' plan. We also highlight some potential issues which may hinder the plan, as well as an outline of opportunities for the small building sector.
Facing the challenge of Irish home supply and affordability
The plan targets supply of 90,000 social or low-income homes and 54,000 affordable homes allocated for first-time buyers priced at around the €250,000 mark. The plan also includes 2000 cost-rental homes, where the rents are expected to be 25% less than the market rate.
The plan aims to tackle the issue of home supply through a range of measures including:
- State funded local authorities land acquisition (including the acquisition of brownfield sites in major cities)
- Accelerate new build construction
- Vacant property tax & site tax reforms
- Funding to aid refurbishment of derelict properties
- Judicial review & reforms to fast-track planning
Tackling the cost of construction through productivity & innovation
The premise of the 'Housing for All' plan is that once supply outstrips demand, the cost of housing will drop. Therefore, the government's intended focus is to scale up construction through productivity and innovation.
The government is in consultation with industry bodies to reduce the cost of construction (including the cost of compliance) through standardisation practices across the sector as well as running construction cost comparisons with comparable EU economies such as Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands.
The plan’s focus will also be on support and investment in the development of digital tools for improving productivity such as building Information modelling techniques as well as support for digitisation of domestic construction.
But will the plan to supply 33,000 units per year out-strip demand? Many believe that falling household sizes and catering for changes to household demographics means that the 300,000 units planned by 2030 will not adequately meet the demand that tends to drive up prices. But -whichever way you cut it – this plan is a vast improvement on any previous plans to tackle the housing crisis.
Capacity, Skills and Experience
To build the 33,000 private and local authority homes planned per year under the ‘Housing for All’ scheme, it is estimated that 27,000 workers will be needed over the next 10 years.
The government hopes to address the shortage of workers through reskilling and upskilling programmes. The plan also aims to recruit 10,000 construction apprentices per year.
It is also hoped that this state-led and state-financed plan means that no longer will the sector be plagued with ‘boom and bust’ cycles, forcing many highly skilled trades to emigrate or discourage new workers from entering the industry.
Shortages of skilled labour could further be addressed by encouraging Irish people to return and skilled foreign nationals to come and work here.
Right now, Ireland’s housing shortage is a big factor in people’s reluctance to return to Ireland but returning emigrants have also cited challenges in securing a mortgage, getting car insurance, or even opening a bank account.
If the ‘Housing for All’ plan can guarantee work and improved conditions for a skilled and experienced workforce then the government could also do more to make it easier and attractive for returning emigrants and a globalised workforce to settle here.
Opportunities for Trades Professionals
The good news about the 'Housing for All' plan is unlike the Rebuilding Ireland Scheme in 2016, this plan is state-led, and a large proportion is state-funded.
Over the next 5 years, €4bn per year will be funded via direct government funding, as well as through the imposition of 'new land value' and vacant property related taxes.
If the state falls short, the European Central Bank (ECB) could also be a likely source of funding - especially as borrowing rates are at an all-time low and the EBC appearing generous in its spending for member states.
Along with new build construction, sustainable housing stock is also a big focus for the ‘Housing for All Plan’ with the domestic retrofit market estimated to be €17.5bn by 2030.
Combine this growth with a tangible increase of activity in the domestic Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) sector, SME trade professionals across all disciplines are likely to enjoy an accessible market of over €20bn by 2030.
The announcement of the ‘Housing for All’ plan will present a range of unique opportunities for trade professionals across the entire sector. However, the plan is only just released, and as always, ‘the devil will be in the detail’.
As the sector expands for both the Irish Construction Industry and the Irish economy, the key for tradespeople is to stay informed, relevant and embrace new ideas and technologies where possible.