A new State agency needs to be set up to oversee the faster delivery of thousands of new homes, the Social Democrats said today.

The call comes as information obtained by the party’s co-leader Catherine Murphy TD shows that only four staff are working in the Housing Delivery Office set up last August in the Department of Housing.

Deputy Murphy said:

“The staffing level in the Housing Delivery Office is completely inadequate.  This dedicated unit was supposed to support the accelerated delivery of housing – how can it possibly do that with only four staff? We need to boost housing supply on a massive scale to resolve the housing crisis. That will only happen if the Government takes a hands-on approach to ensuring homes are actually built.

“The number of new homes under construction is way behind the level of demand in the country. As long as this is the case, house prices and rents will continue to rise and become ever more unaffordable. As one example of how bad the problem is, only 665 social housing units were constructed last year – yet there are more than 90,000 people on housing waiting lists.”

Deputy Murphy added:

“It’s time we had a dedicated housing body to ensure much faster delivery of new homes. Under our proposals, the new State agency would have a hands-on approach, be able to contract builders and activate publicly-controlled land banks across different local authorities. It could achieve economies of scale across these sites and that would bring down construction costs. It could help deliver, social, affordable rental and affordable purchase homes. It could also play a key role in accessing off-balance sheet funding to fund the construction of thousands of homes.

“The bottom line is that we need to add thousands of new homes to our housing stock as quickly as we can and in a sustainable way. It is little wonder there is such a delay in achieving this if the Government is dependent on a core team of just four people. It says everything about the lack of urgency at the heart of Government about the housing emergency.”

ENDS

25 June 2017

Notes to Editors:
In a Dáil reply this week (see below), the Minister for Housing confirmed that four staff are working in the Department’s Housing Delivery Office.

QUESTION NO:  2234
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy)
by Deputy Catherine Murphy for WRITTEN ANSWER on 20/06/2017

To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning; Community and Local Government the number of staff in the housing delivery office; the respective grades of the staff working in the office; the details of professionally qualified staff working in the office, for example, planning, housing economists, architecture, construction, surveying and so on; the key outputs of the office since its inception; the targets the office is currently working to; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY.
In line with the commitment under Action 2.9 of Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, a dedicated Housing Delivery Office (HDO) was established within my Department, in August 2016, to support the accelerated delivery of housing across the social and private sectors, and tenure spectrum, in an integrated and timely manner.
The Housing Delivery Office comprises a team of 4 people directly, let by Mr David O’ Connor, former County Architect and Chief Executive in Fingal County Council. Other members of the team have extensive expertise in project management, finance, planning and local government, including people seconded from the local government sector and the National Development Finance Agency. The HDO works with the range of highly experienced technical officers within my Department across key disciplines such as architecture, planning, engineering and building control, project and construction management, quantity surveying, capital programme delivery and administration.
Working with the broader Housing and Planning Divisions in my Department, other key agencies, local authorities and the construction sector, the HDO supports the roll-out of complex projects, including identifying and resolving barriers to delivery, and monitors progress across key sites as they progress. Among the key outputs coordinated and delivered through the HDO since its establishment are:
– A review of the social housing design, approval, and delivery process, which was published in February 2017 and is available at the following link: http://rebuildingireland.ie/install/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Social-Housing_Approval-Processes-Procedures-Review-1.pdf
– A Programme Management and Review Framework to drive and track the development of the 23 Major Urban Housing Delivery Sites (MUHDS) which have the potential to deliver up to 30,000 homes in the medium term across 8 local authority areas, to monitor and manage progress through regular reports from Project Teams, ensuring that any impediments to progress are resolved in a timely manner.
– A database of suitable housing-zoned land in the ownership of State and semi-State bodies, which has been published on the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Land Map, and can be accessed here: http://rebuildingireland.ie/news/rebuilding-ireland-land-map/ , and working with those State and semi-State bodies, and local authorities, to drive the development of these sites.
The HDO will continue to play an important role in supporting my Department, local authorities and the housing development sector in the roll-out of the multi-faceted actions under Rebuilding Ireland and in accelerating the supply of new homes across all tenures.

The question and reply are available here: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail2017062000165?opendocument#WRHHHHH00800