Is Industry Lobbying stalling self-building?


01 November 2016

In the following letter from the Irish Association of Self Builders (IAOSB) to Minister Simon Coveney and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the IAOSB allege that RIAI interventions to the Law Society and lending institutions influenced policy decisions for non-adoption of recent regulatory changes- the SI.365 ‘opt out’ introduced in September 2015 (see letter here).  Following a Ministerial review into the very high costs associated with Building Control, former Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey concluded that BCAR procedures were a barrier to house building and introduced the ‘BCAR opt out’, SI.365 in response.  This was a reversal of Building Control regulations (BCAR SI.9) introduced just 18 months previously (see link here).

The IAOSB have been calling for a more effective system of Local Authority independent inspections similar to the more affordable and transparent Northern Ireland Building Control system (see link here).  The consensus amongst legal experts and many independent commentators is that BCAR SI.9 procedures are merely a continuation of our defective system of ‘self certification’, where the employee of a developer signs-off on building standards compliance with no additional consumer protections.

Self-builders are in a ‘Catch-22’ situation: if they want to avail of the Government’s Help-To-Buy scheme they must ‘opt-in’ to BCAR procedures, however Building Control bureaucracy will cost them a multiple of any tax savings under new Government incentives.  Link to IAOSB letter is here; full text is as follows:

Iaosb letter to President Carole Pollard relating to S.I.365

1st of November 2016

Dear President Pollard,

As a result of lobbying actions by the RIAI, CIF and other industry bodies the first time buyers grants introduced in budget 2016 will be extremely difficult to avail of by self-builders. The IAOSB considers this to be discriminatory against citizens considering building their own home and conveys unfair advantage on those professionals, contractors and developers involved in speculative housing sector and those registered to operate under the current system of self-certification BCAR S.I.9 of 2014.

Accordingly, under Freedom of Information Act, we request all records (including correspondence, meeting agendas, minutes, policy statements, notes etc) relating to BCAR S.I.365 of 2015 and related matters (including inspection and certification of one off houses and domestic extensions) between RIAI and SCSI, ENG IRE, ACEI, and/or Law Society and/or the lending institutions (banks, building societies etc)  from May 2015 to date. We are forwarding a copy of this letter to Minister Simon Coveney and await your response.

In support of our request we refer to the following information on BCAR S.I.365 published on the RIAI website from September 2015, practice note 284, RIAI BCAR Steering Group noted (copy attached):

“are we back to the previous  world where anyone can call themselves a ‘builder’, where there is no requirement to engage an Architect”  

“There needs to be an alternative system that is fi for purpose. We the RIAI Steering Group are finalising an alternative means of demonstrating compliance. We are adopting many of the proposals which we put forward in our submission to the DECLG earlier this year, for the review of S.I. 9 of 2014, and are in the process of discussing this alternative system with the Law Society and lending institutions with a view to the alternative system being the accepted evidence of compliance where building owners choose to ‘opt out’.” 

We also note an RIAI press release from September 2nd 2015 where you noted:

“The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is extremely concerned that the exemption of newly built one-off homes and house extensions from formal review and approval by assigned certifiers through relaxation of existing Building Control Regulations represents a major step back for consumer protection. The RIAI believes that removing almost one half of all new builds from a robust regulatory scheme is not in the interests of consumers or public safety. The RIAI is urging the Minister to revisit this change and to carry out a full review of the operation of S.I.9 as was understood to be the intention.

Robin Mandal, Former President of RIAI said: “Our Building Regulations exist to control standards in construction and are essential in achieving safer, healthier and more sustainable buildings.   Almost half of Ireland’s newly built housing stock is one-off homes and removing up to 88% of these from a robust inspection process is not in the interests of consumers. Ireland is now developing a two tier system – where people who buy their homes are subject to one regime and those who build themselves to another.  Without appropriate inspection issues such as poor fire protection and incorrectly fitted radon barriers could have detrimental effects for those living in the houses, the cost of which will inevitably be borne by the taxpayer.”

(see press release here: RIAI_press_release_on_s.i._365)

We are at a loss as to why failures in the private sector ‘self-certified’ speculative housing sector are being used as reasons to preclude ordinary citizens hoping to build a home for life.  We contend that these statements represent an unfair and unjustified unconscious bias towards self-builders in general and an incorrect implication by the RIAI that self-builders are concerned with ‘minimal drawings’ completed cheaply by non-qualified professionals.

The IAOSB at all times have called for increased regulation in the sector and have asked on numerous occasions for an effective independent system of Local Authority inspections to be introduced. Our members are building homes for life and do not have any interest in cutting corners for short term gain.  The costs associated with BCAR S.I.9 of 2014 private self-certification processes are huge and are having a major effect on our members.

BCAR S.I.9 of 2014 does nothing to improve standards and just adds another layer of  paperwork to a 25 year old self-certification system that has been demonstrated time and again to not fit-for-purpose and not in the interests of public and state alike. There is no evidence that we are aware of to suggest that the widespread defects in the speculative housing sector are in any way related to self-builds and we contend that self-builds represent some of the most safe and well built homes in the state. We challenge the RIAI to provide a compelling case against this assertion.

The clear stated intention of then former Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey in introducing S.I.365 in September 2015 was to reduce the extraordinary regulatory cost burden imposed by BCAR on once-off and self-build sectors. It appears that the RIAI along with other key stakeholders including the Construction Industry Federation have been actively lobbying to block the implementation of this S.I.365 not just with the Department, but with the Law Society and various lenders. It appears that this aggressive private sector lobbying has been successful.

The current position by some lending institutions of insisting on adoption of BCAR S.I.9 of 2014 administrative procedures for exempt projects is having a major effect on the self-build sector and goes against the spirit of S.I.365 of 2015, which was to reduce the regulatory burden on self-build homes and increase supply in this critical housing sector. In the midst of a housing crisis this inappropriate, ineffective and expensive administrative process is significant financial burden and conveys an anti-competitive monopoly on those professionals and contractors who are registered under BCAR- the RIAI, SCSI, ACEI and CIF.

Accordingly we would appreciate the information and arguments you have used to promote the current  system of self-certification with the legal profession and also to lending institutions. We would like to see your submissions and any evidence to back your opposition to the ‘Opt-out’ introduced in September. S.I.365 of 2015 is clearly aimed to simplify the regulatory process for self-builders and improve chances for citizens to safely build their own homes.

Kind regards,

Shane McCloud

Irish Association of Self Builders
The Representative Body for Self Builders of Ireland


Other posts of interest:

“Want to hear vested interests squeal and throw tantrums?” | Karl Deeter

SI 365 of 2015: A good start | Collins + O’Cofaigh

Breaking News! | SI.9 Revisions Published

RIAI Response | Ministerial Review SI.9

Regulations add up to €60k to house cost | Karl Deeter

BCAR “is estimated to add about €25,000 to the cost of each home” | Ronan Lyons

CIF advises against any easing of regulations for Self-builders | Irish Building Magazine

Simon Carswell: Politicians, Construction industry lobbying and banking | look back 10

First Responders | Engineers Ireland criticise proposed SI.9 reforms

Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 1

Banks rule-out self-builders in housing crisis?

“These houses were rubbish” | Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 2

“Thank you, Minister!” | Registered Architect

Here’s How to Avoid Another Longboat Quay: Dublin Inquirer | Look Back 15

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