BRegs Weekly | 17 October 2017

17 October 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 125

Edition 125 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In “Budget 2018: State continues reliance on private sector for social housing” Olivia Kelly reports on Budget 2018 which was announced last week “..for the fourth year running the Government is relying on the private rental sector to solve the social housing crisis, a policy which has yet to succeed. Almost €1.9 billion is being provided for social housing next year. However, only 3,800 of those “new” homes will be built by local authorities or voluntary housing bodies. The majority – about 20,000 – will be rented from private landlords, largely using the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), where rent is paid directly to landlords by local authorities on behalf of tenants.”

In “Mick Wallace calls for €33m sale of Dublin Docklands apartments to be halted” Ronald Quinn noted that the Independent TD  has called on the Government to suspend a NAMA sale of 124 Dublin docklands apartments. Commenting on Nama’s move, Mr Wallace said: “We are in the middle of a housing crisis, and Nama are now buying apartments, in order to sell them on to vulture funds. Nama have now become property speculators. It beggars belief that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour, and now even Sinn Fein, believe that Nama have the expertise to solve our housing crisis. Nama are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

In other housing (see here) news a review of the Government’s ‘help-to-buy scheme’, carried out by independent consultants Indecon an international economic consultancy company, found that the scheme had yet to make any impact on the market. The VAT rebate incentive  allows first-time buyers to claim up to €20,000 back in tax will remain in place next year. The scheme was criticised as being inflationary by analysts and opposition parties. No Cost-Benefit analysis of the measure had been undertaken in advance of implementation by the Department of Housing.

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 125

“Budget 2018: More for housing… if developers get up early” Irish Times

11 October 2017

Reaction to Budget 21018 has been mixed, particularly in relation to housing. Two notable omissions from proposals noted by opposition parties yesterday were the lack of any affordable housing scheme and no measures to address the country’s 183,000 existing vacant properties. The following Irish Times article “Budget 2018: State continues reliance on private sector for social housing” rendered some background to the current budget proposals.

Extracts:

“…for the fourth year running the Government is relying on the private rental sector to solve the social housing crisis, a policy which has yet to succeed.

Almost €1.9 billion is being provided for social housing next year, an increase of 46 per cent on 2017, which Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said will provide homes for 25,000 people currently on waiting lists.

However, only 3,800 of those “new” homes will be built by local authorities or voluntary housing bodies. The majority – about 20,000 – will be rented from private landlords, largely using the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), where rent is paid directly to landlords by local authorities on behalf of tenants.

The remaining homes will be built by private developers, returned to the system through refurbishment, or bought on the private market…

Defending the 3,800 figure, Mr Murphy said it was about 1,800 more than would be built by the end of this year. This year’s total of about 2,000 is not quite the 2,400 promised in last year’s budget but if it is achieved, it would not be dire. It is, however, very small compared to the 15,000 Hap tenancies expected to be provided by the end of this year.

Housing targets

It will be next year before the figures achieved in 2017 will be known, but the promises and outcomes for the first two post-austerity budgets of 2015 and 2016 can be measured.

In budget 2015, just under 1,000 social homes were to be built, and 8,000 families were to be housed using the recently established Hap. In addition, public-private partnerships (PPPs) were to deliver 1,500 social homes by the end of 2017.

The 2015 reality? A miserable 75 homes were built by local authorities and just over 400 by voluntary bodies. The Hap scheme resulted in 5,680 new tenancies.

Budget 2016 was more ambitious with a target of 1,500 social housing units. Another 10,000 families would be accommodated using Hap, with its funding going from €24.5 million to €47.7 million. The PPP scheme, which did not get off the ground in 2015, was to have its first 500 homes under way in 2016.

Of the 17,365 homes the Department of Housing lists as having been provided in 2016, 12,075 were Hap rentals. About 600 houses were built. No houses were provided through the PPP scheme in 2016.

Rental scheme

However, in recent weeks city and county councillors have approved the construction of the first 259 of these homes…

Other measures designed to bring more homes to the market seem to have fallen by the wayside. The Living City Initiative, designed to encourage the renovation and reuse of pre-1915 city centre properties, announced in budget 2015 and revamped in budget 2016, has had fewer than 50 applications.

While an affordable rental scheme, using €10 million from the proceeds of the sale of Bord Gáis, aimed at people whose incomes are above the threshold for State rental assistance but who cannot afford private rents, disappeared altogether.

A new affordable house-purchase scheme had been expected ahead of this year’s budget. It will be announced in the coming weeks, Mr Murphy said.

Almost 100,000 households remain on social housing waiting lists.

Other posts of interest:

Budget 2018: Part 2 – Voluntary & Not-for-Profit Organisations

Budget 2018: Part 1 – Industry Submissions

Rebuilding Ireland Review | John McCarthy

Government’s ‘rapid-build’ schedule in realms of fantasy | Irish Times

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

Government Plans won’t fix the affordable-housing crisis  | Engineers Journal

UK Architects reject ‘bonkers’ micro-housing rules | RIBA

Eurostat findings are a “wake-up call” | Housing Europe

State Housing is Key to Solving Crisis | London School of Economics

BRegs Weekly | 9 October 2017

9 October 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 124

Edition 124 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

Last week Fianna Fail proposed a Bill which contained provisions for fire safety checks by independent inspectors to replace the system of self-certification currently in place. Barry Cowan TD outlined proposals to speed up the planning approval and building control processes to allow the speedy conversion of vacant properties into habitable units. He said they exist in large numbers, and pointed out that Dublin City Council recently estimated there were as many as 4,000 vacant spaces above commercial units: “With the right policy instruments in place this could translate into over 20,000 additional residential units in a short space of time,” said Mr Cowen.

Further relevations emerged last week about defetcive schools built  under the so-called ‘rapid’ build programme. The company that built dozens of schools now under investigation due to fire safety concerns is currently building six more schools for the Department of Education and was given the contracts after the fears emerged. Last Tuesday, Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed that his department has launched a full review of all 37 schools built by the company since 2003.

In housing news Goodbody confirmed the housing crisis is in even worse than previously thought and said 5,377 houses were completed last year, only about one third of the 14,932 indicated by official completions data calculated by electricity connections. “..On current trends, completions will total less than 10,000 units [for 2017] — roughly half the estimates suggested by the alternative electricity connections data,” Goodbody said.

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 124

Fianna Fail Bill to replace self-certification with independent inspectors for existing vacant buildings

5 October 2017

This week Fianna Fail proposed a Bill which contained provisions for fire safety checks by independent inspectors to replace the system of self-certification currently in place. In “Fianna Fáil publishes Bill to speed up access to vacant homes” Irish Times, Barry Cowan TD outlined proposals to speed up the planning approval and building control processes to allow the speedy conversion of vacant properties into habitable units.

The Bill focused in on “above the shop” units around the country which are currently vacant and it envisages a “one-stop-shop” for approving the refurbishment process. Under this plan an owner can apply to be included in the process and if accepted, the owner will receive a “works permit” that will replace a fire safety certificate and will verify compliance with building regulations.

He said they exist in large numbers, and pointed out that Dublin City Council recently estimated there were as many as 4,000 vacant spaces above commercial units. “With the right policy instruments in place this could translate into over 20,000 additional residential units in a short space of time,” said Mr Cowen.

The Bill is a timely piece of legislation given continuing health and safety issues associated with existing buildings and fire safety. In  Times Ireland “Evacuation warning to hostel over fire safety”, a recent high court ruling on a hostel described as a “fire trap” must be vacated unless it is brought up to code.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said that he would have ordered the immediate evacuation of the Dublin building yesterday but it would have left more than 20 residents seeking alternative accommodation.

The property on Old County Road in Crumlin was one of a number of properties being investigated by RTÉ as part of an upcoming documentary on breaches in the private rental sector.

“In the course of our investigation, a property in Crumlin came to our attention. We believed this property posed an immediate danger to the tenants residing there. Ahead of the programme to be broadcast, RTÉ Investigates reported the property and the concerns for the safety of the tenants to Dublin city council,” a statement from the broadcaster said yesterday.

The Dublin city fire officer found that there were no escape routes or fire alarms, and there were a number of other safety issues. John and Yvonne McEleney, the owners, could not be contacted, the court was told. Mr Justice Noonan said that he wanted to grant the order ending the building’s use as a residence but was concerned about putting people out on the street last night.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive could not find any alternative accommodation for the residents last night so Mr Justice Noonan imposed the order on the premises that fire regulations must be adhered to. He ordered the case to come before him tomorrow.

The programme, which has been in production for six months, will be shown on RTÉ One later this month. Link to RTE here.

Other posts of interest:

Lessons learned from the Millfield Manor fire? Broadsheet.ie

Second audit over school fire safety concerns launched | Irish Examiner

First Priory Hall, then Longboat Quay…now schools | Irish Examiner

Fire safety issues ‘whitewashed’ in long awaited review (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Fire safety report an ‘insult’ to Millfield Manor residents | Irish Examiner

Dept. of Housing withhold Fire Review into timber frame housing | Irish Examiner 

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Kildare Fire: Safety concerns arise from Celtic Tiger ashes | Irish Examiner

‘Does our Housing Minister know how many homes are at risk of rapid fire spread?’ Cian O’Callaghan

Local Authority knew of estate fire fears for 12 years | Sunday Business Post

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland | CJ Walsh

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify | Broadsheet.ie

Donegal Mica + Render | “State Fails to Protect Family Homes” Seanad

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

“How many more Irish homes are in breach of Fire Regulations?

 

BRegs Weekly | 30 September 2017

30 September 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 123

Edition 123 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

It emerged last month that inspection reports from 2015 found fire safety concerns with five schools built by Western Building Systems (WBS). A total of 60 schools will now undergo fresh fire safety audits in the wake of concerns identified in a number of schools built by WBS since 2003.  Donegal Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn is claiming that three months after the publication of the Mica Expert Panel’s report, there has been no movement by Minister Damien English on a redress scheme, despite the recommendations of the group. And finally at their conference last week the Irish Council for Social Housing says the cabinet needs to provide significant capital spending in next month’s Budget to deal with the 90,000 people on housing waiting lists. Donal McManus CEO said “The problem with social housing is probably [at] the highest level in our generation and really the key thing is to keep the focus by Government into providing finance for social housing.”

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 123

Second audit over school fire safety concerns launched | Irish Examiner

28 September 2017

The following article in the Examiner “Government launches second audit over school fire safety concerns” Fiachra Ó Cionnaith reports on continued problems with the state’s so-called “rapid’ build schools programme. This is the second investigation into serious fire safety concerns in Celtic Tiger-era schools amid growing fears that the scale of the crisis has been deliberately “suppressed”. (see full story here):

A further ‘rapid’ build programme is currently being rolled out by the Department of Housing with the aim to construct 1,500 homes nationwide. It is unclear what impact this second fire safety review will have on the current housing policy. Extract:


Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed the move as he said his department is continuing to “consult with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office” over what, if any, legal action it may take against builders behind the sites.

In a statement to the Dáil’s education committee yesterday, Mr Bruton said all of the 37 schools built by Western Building Systems, based in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, since 2003 will be examined in the next six months.

The move is in addition to a separate sample audit of fire safety standards at 25 schools built by a number of companies during the boom.

This audit was launched after the department was last month forced to publish five 2016 audits into Western Building Systems-built schools found to have major fire safety concerns. These were instigated by an October 2015 Irish Examiner investigation into a linked school…

This comment was criticised by the committee, with members claiming the scale of the crisis has been “suppressed”.

“Why was the department, from October 2015 right up to now, guilt of suppressing this, of having it suppressed?” said Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett .

The view was supported by committee chair and Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte and the party’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, while Green Party TD Catherine Martin said the situation is “despicable”.

Mr Bruton said his department is in ongoing contact with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office to examine what, if any, legal action the State may take if mistakes are found.

He also said he has set up a new group within his department to oversee all audit findings, and that a “clerk of works” will be appointed to ensure transparency on future builds.

Asked if he will ban any firm behind schools considered a fire hazard, Mr Bruton said he cannot do so unless they breach EU tender laws.

A spokesman for Western Building Systems said it was confident all of the buildings conformed with the required standards and specifications relevant “at the time of handover”

“Western Building Systems Ltd has a distinguished record of delivering high-quality buildings for more than 35 years throughout the UK and Ireland. We take matters of health and safety very seriously indeed,” said the spokesman.

The Department of Education has now launched four separate investigations into fire safety concerns in Celtic Tiger era schools:

  • The first was launched in 2015 into the Rusk and Lusk Educate Together school in north Dublin. This school was built by Western Building Systems.
  • A second investigation was instigated by this report, and focussed on five other Western Building Systems schools – St Francis of Assisi national school in Belmayne in Dublin; Belmayne Educate Together national school in Dublin; Mullingar Educate Together national school in Offaly; Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha in Greystones in Wicklow; and Powerstown Educate Together national school in Tyrrelstown in Dublin. While it concluded last year, it’s findings were not published until last month after intervention from the Information Commissioner in response to a Freedom of Information Act appeal by the Dublin Inquirer newspaper.
  • On foot of the second investigation, a third investigation was announced which will examine 25 sample schools built during the Celtic Tiger era. They will be identified next month, with a report due by Christmas.
  • A fourth investigation was launched on Tuesday by Education Minister Richard Bruton, focussing on every school built by Western Building Systems since 2003. Mr Bruton said the step has been taken to ensure there are no concerns, and that just because the schools are named does not necessarily mean there is anything at fault at the facilities.

Excluding the six already examined Western Building Systems schools, the list relates to the following 31 schools:

  • Griffeen Valley Educate Together, Dublin (built in 2003)
  • Greystones Educate Together, Wicklow (2008)
  • Macroom Boys Educate Together, Cork (2009)
  • Ardgillan CC, Castleislands, Balbriggan, Dublin (2009)
  • Athy Model School, Kildare (2011)
  • Scoil Phadraig Naofa Phase II, Kildare (2011)
  • Tyrrelstown Educate Together national school, Dublin (2011)
  • St Paul’s national school, Meath (2011)
  • Lucan East Educate Together national school, Dublin (2011)
  • Portarlington convent national school, Laois (2012)
  • Mulhuddart national school, Dublin (2012)
  • Gaelscoil Eiscir Riada, Lucan, Dublin (2012)
  • Sc Chormaic CNS, Dublin (2012)
  • Maryborough national school, Laois (2013)
  • Gaelscoil Chloich na Coillte, Clonakility, Cork (2013)
  • Gaelscoil Portlaoise, Laois (2013)
  • Scoil Choilm, Porterstown, Dublin (2013)
  • Carrigaline Educate Together national school, Cork (2013)
  • Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Rochestown, Cork (2013)
  • Portlaoise Educate Together, Laois (2013)
  • Luttrelstown CC, Dublin (2013)
  • Cara junior (special) school, Mayfield, Cork (2014)
  • Gaelscoil Shliabh Rua, Stepaside, Dublin (2015)
  • Scoil Chaitlin Maude, Dublin (2016)
  • Gaelscoil Tulach na Og, Dunboyne, Meath (2016)
  • Gaelscoil na Mi, Meath (2016)
  • Ashbourne Educate Together national school, Meath (2016)
  • Scoil Aoife, Dublin (2016)
  • Lucan CNS, Dublin (2016)
  • Broombridge Educate Together national school, Dublin (2016)
  • De Lacy College, Meath (2016)

Other posts of interest:

Schools Safety Report: Building Firm earned €40m & built ‘Rapid’ homes

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

Fire-fighting | Rush and Lusk School | BRegsForum

First Priory Hall, then Longboat Quay…now schools | Irish Examiner

Gaelscoil shut over health and safety concerns – The Mayo News

Schools Building Projects: 5 Jul 2016: Written answers (KildareStreet.com)

Firm that built school with fire safety concerns constructed at least 25 others | Irish Examiner

Calls for a national audit to ensure school fire safety | Irish Examiner

BRegs Weekly | 22 September 2017

22 September 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 122

Edition 122 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

It’s all housing this week! Ictu wants Government to declare national housing emergency, developers reluctant to build apartments  and  Leo Varadkar rules out tax breaks for developers.  Finally, for construction professionals Paul McNieve asks “Would you turn down €1m in fees to avoid a conflict of interest?”

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 122

Budget 2018: Part 2 – Voluntary & Not-for-Profit Organisations

20 September 2017

World Homeless Day coincides with Budget 2018, to be announced on 10th October 2017. In the second of two posts, BRegs Blog gathers submissions from various interest groups and Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations that suggest measures to tackle the housing and homeless emergency. Part 1 gathered various private key-stakeholder organisations and their submissions  (see Part 1 here).

Pre-Budget Submissions (click on organisation for link to PDF)

Articles of Interest:

Peter McVerry: Housing crisis for the rich or poor?

Number of homeless could reach 10,000 by next year–Simon Community

Budget 2018: Here’s what we know so far | Irish Times

Other posts of Interest:

Rebuilding Ireland Review | John McCarthy

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Government’s ‘rapid-build’ schedule in realms of fantasy | Irish Times

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify | Broadsheet.ie

Rapid Answers – Broadsheet.ie

Homelessness in Galway at unprecedented level, says NGO

Is ‘Rapid’ housing too little, too late (again)?

BRegs Weekly | 15 September 2017

 

15 September 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 121

Edition 121 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In “State must answer fire safety questions” by Mick Clifford, the case for a widespread audit of Celtic Tiger-era buildings has never been as strong. The Department of Education recently released details of a fire safety audits in five schools completed two years ago and withheld till now. It was only with the intervention of the Information Commisisoner, following an FOI request from the Dublin Inquirer newspaper, that the department finally caved in. The reports were published eight days ago and showed a whole range of fire safety deficiencies-  all were in breach of fire safety standards. Remarkably the Department was reluctant to let parents know whether their children were at any risk should a fire occur in any of the five schools. Now, rather than facing up to the past, the State and its agencies are hoping against hope that any fire problems in defective Celtic Tiger-era dwellings can remain buried, a ‘potentially catastrophic’ gamble.

The issue of defective public sector buildings is note restricted to Ireland. In “NHS hospitals exposed to fire risk” in The Construction Index, it appears that several NHS hospitals, including the flagship £545m Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, are at serious risk of fire due to inadequate or non-existent passive fire protection. Despite Building Regulations requiring minimum levels of fire protection within buildings, the application and installation of passive fire protection is poorly understood and that there is no effective system to ensure that it is installed and maintained correctly. A UK industry source said that several cases of inadequate fire protection have surfaced recently at a number of new NHS hospitals but these are just “the tip of the iceberg”. Problems with shoddy fire protection have surfaced at these hospitals largely due to the nature of so-called Public Private Partnerships  (PPP/PFI) contracts. This is of particular concern in Ireland where the widespread extension of the PPP programme for state housing is being considered at present.

The Housing crisis rolls on. In “Murphy’s social housing plan ‘falls far short” by Eithne Loughlin in the Examiner, social housing plans were criticised as falling “ far short” of what is required to address the escalating crisis. However, Mr Murphy said the 800 extra homes to be built in 2018, on top of the 3,000 already promised, represents a “significant increase”. Focus Ireland said the meeting had produced some positive proposals, but had failed to live up to the expectations created by the decision to bill it as a summit. Focus Ireland director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said the proposals announced were “dominated by managing the emergency rather than tackling the problem”. Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, welcomed the provision of extra emergency beds before Christmas but added: “Clearly the latest homeless figures point to the fact that more needs to be done and done quickly…” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin branded the Government’s housing response a “national scandal…We need to build significantly more houses and apartments, and quickly.

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 121

Budget 2018: Part 1 – Industry Submissions

13 September 2017

Budget 2018 will be announced on 10th October 2017, World Homeless Day. The budget sets out the main changes in the areas of taxation, social welfare, health, housing, education, employment and other areas. In Part 1 of 2 posts, BRegs Blog tables submissions by various industry interest groups- Construction Lobby Groups the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and Property Industry Ireland (PII), Industry stakeholders Engineers Ireland (EI), Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland (SCSI), Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV), and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). Part 2 will gather Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations and their submissions aimed at tackling the acute lack of housing that we are currently experiencing and measures aimed to tackle the housing and homeless emergency.

Pre-Budget Submissions (click on organisation for link to PDF)

Articles of Interest:

Peter McVerry: Housing crisis for the rich or poor?

Number of homeless could reach 10,000 by next year–Simon Community

Budget 2018: Here’s what we know so far | Irish Times

Other posts of Interest:

Rebuilding Ireland Review | John McCarthy

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Government’s ‘rapid-build’ schedule in realms of fantasy | Irish Times

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify | Broadsheet.ie

Rapid Answers – Broadsheet.ie

Homelessness in Galway at unprecedented level, says NGO

Is ‘Rapid’ housing too little, too late (again)?