BRegs Weekly | 21 July 2017

Pictured: Grenfell Tower, London, England June 16

21 July 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 115

Edition 115 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

As many as 70% of apartments built between 2002 and 2008 are fire deficient, fire experts have revealed (see Independent article here).  Dublin City Council has served 11 fire safety notices relating to fire safety deficiencies to owners or occupiers of seven premises in the city this year alone.  Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy had a “frank discussion” with Dublin’s Chief Fire Officer last month to discuss fire and life safety issues in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and is due to meet with other chief fire officers.  The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland says there are “major concerns” over fire safety in multi-unit dwellings in Ireland.  Chartered building surveyor Kevin Hollingsworth has remediated 29 developments throughout the country for fire safety issues over the last four years.  Director general of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland Áine Myler said “…a significant proportion of the buildings constructed during the Celtic Tiger era may not be in compliance with building regulations in force at the time of construction… Two months ago, the society called on the Government to commission a high-level study into these properties.”

An article by Dublin County Councillor Cian O’Callaghan (SD) in Journal.ie ‘Does our Housing Minister know how many homes are at risk of rapid fire spread?’ highlighted the lack of assistance from official bodies in providing accurate information to homeowners of properties with fire safety concerns. Councillor O’Callaghan said the following “five crucial questions that the New Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD should answer as a matter of urgency if he is to show that he is serious about tackling fire safety defects in housing developments in Ireland”:

  1. Will he publish the Fire Safety Review [Into Millfield Manor Fire in 2015] that his Department has sat on for the last 15 months?
  2. Is he aware of the extent of the problem in Ireland and that a larger number of estates built during the last housing boom have fire safety defects?
  3. Will he abolish self-certification and replace it with independent inspection of buildings to ensure compliance with building control regulations and fire safety regulations?
  4. Will he investigate the failure of councils to use their building control powers to pursue developers that were found to be in breach of fire safety regulations?
  5. Will he abolish the 5-year statute of limitations that lets rogue developers off the hook?

In “Help-to-buy scheme a disaster – as predicted” the Independent confirmed that the Government’s ‘Help-to-Buy’ scheme has accelerated house price inflation and noted the ‘brutal reality’ that homebuyers are paying €19,000 more for their homes compared with one year ago.  The ‘Help-to-Buy’ scheme is a rebranded version of the older “First time buyers grant”, abolished in 2002 by former Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen (FF).  At the time he said the grants had helped to push up house prices, had “returned little benefit to consumers” and been “simply been absorbed in the increased profits of builders” (see here).  Government think-tank the National Economic and Social Council had called for its abolition in 1993.  Following intensive lobbying by the construction industry the current measure was introduced last year but was widely criticsed by EU watchdogs, commentators and senior government figures.  It has been subsequently confirmed that no cost benefit analysis or regulatory impact assessment was undertaken in advance of implementation by the Department of Housing.

In other news Housing Agency boss John O’Connor issued a sobering prediction and said it would take up to 3 years for house prices and rents to stabilise (see here).  He highlighted the importance of the re-use of existing vacant buildings in addressing immediate housing needs and suggested that the recovery in the sector will come only when the banks deal with bad debts.  The vacant site tax, due to come into force from 2019, also needs to be amended to encourage development- currently, if a loan is equal or greater than the value of the land, an exemption can be secured.  Local authorities must also take a more pro-active role in building communities.  He said “We can’t underestimate sorting out our loan problems. That’s having a huge effect on housing, and we need to just bite the bullet. The vacant site levy is a good thing. It’s worked in other countries.  Land needs to be used if there’s a need for housing in the area”.

The BRegs Weekly e-zine gathers all recent social media discussions relating to Building Control Regulations into one weekly digest. It is published every Friday and gives a round-up of news highlights for the week.  We recommend signing up for an automatic subscription to keep up with the discussion surrounding the current annual review of the BC(A)R, and more recent media articles and stories about building control and the impacts on the consumer and construction industry.

Click Here to read: BRegs Weekly : Edition 115

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