February 11th 2015
Address by Mr. Paudie Coffey T.D. Minister of State Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government at “Housing 2020 – Design and Delivery” the Joint Housing Conference of the RIAI & the Department at Dublin Castle on Tuesday 10 February 2015 at 9.00 am.
Speech cleared by Aidan O’Connor, Principal Adviser, Architecture/ Building Standards.
I am pleased to welcome you all here this morning for the resumption of our conference programme.
I compliment all concerned in the RIAI and my own Department in creating this forum where industry professionals, academics, policy makers, planners, local housing authorities and voluntary housing bodies can collectively engage with and respond to the many challenges we now face.
If ever there was a time for creative solutions, joined up thinking, collaborative approaches, the time is now.
Housing and Construction
The timing of this conference is fortuitous coinciding as it does with the recent launch by Minister Kelly and I of the Social Housing Strategy 2020.
Economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability require a capable and effectively performing housing and construction sector.
The Social Housing Strategy 2020 stands side by side with the broader Construction 2020 strategy. Together they comprise some 112 measures which set out a credible and achievable context for ensuring that the housing and construction sector are aligned to the needs of our economy and its citizens.
Minster Kelly, myself and our colleagues in Government are determined to deliver these measures and will not be found wanting in working hard to create the conditions necessary to ensure the delivery of social and economic infrastructure that will allow people to live and work in a built environment that is user friendly, safe, secure and sustainable.
This means working openly with stakeholders to overcome the challenges of:
- Careful manpower planning that ensures the right skills and training are in place to respond effectively to growing construction demands following several years of little or no activity;
- Close alignment of the planning and development system with current and future investment and infrastructural needs
- The need for new and innovative investment funding and investment models that provide the wherewithal to meet real and growing demands
Our recent return to growth does not in itself herald the end of constraints on resources. We need to ensure that public investment is targeted wisely and effectively, not least the €2.2 billion now committed to the delivery of 10,000 social housing units over the next 3 years.
The welcome return from a period of low or minimal housing provision to one where, thankfully, significant investment is again possible, comes with its own stresses and strains. We are expected to respond to the current high level of pent-up demand for housing while simultaneously addressing and keeping apace of future needs. It is important therefore that we act quickly, decisively and responsibly in delivering appropriate solutions to current and future housing needs.
The future of a great many of our citizens is heavily reliant on the successful implementation of the Social Housing Strategy 2020, which I know you have already considered in detail during yesterday’s session addressed by Bairbre Nic Aongusa from the Department’s Housing Division.
The range of critical issues which inform this strategy and your conference programme are the traditional dilemmas for policy makers and practitioners in the housing domain, such as the challenge of matching supply and demand, aligning regional and local planning processes with needs, housing standards, funding arrangements. Far from ever becoming resolved, they continue to throw up fresh challenges.
In addition we face further challenges particular to the present moment including the challenges of kick-starting a building industry that has been mothballed for several years, of translating the return to confidence into tangible investment, of enticing unoccupied buildings back into the market place, all the while, of course, dealing with a market place that is itself still in correction mode.
The Government’s vision for the future of the housing sector in Ireland is based on choice, fairness, equity across tenures and on delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested. More than anything else, though people want to see delivery and I am personally focussed on the reality that action not rhetoric solves problems.
Outside of state provision, it is essential that we have a vibrant private housing sector that operates to the same core values as the Government in terms of offering consumers fair play, quality standards and value for money.
Again, the availability of funding for developers and for potential buyers alike is an essential critical success factor for progress in this sector. This forms a key topic in our Construction 2020 strategy. In my own view, the expectations of financiers and developers in particular must become attuned to the fact that market circumstances have changed fundamentally. There is no prospect of the market returning to where it was pre-2006. Expectations and investment decisions must therefore be framed around today’s operating environment and outlook.
Conditions now seem conducive to allowing business to take place and it is in everybody’s interest that this happens sooner rather than later.
I look forward therefore to seeing what may come from the session later today to be led by Michelle Norris of UCD.
I also believe the upcoming conference on Construction Financing Options being hosted by the Department of Finance will be significant in highlighting the increasing levels of capital available for financing viable construction and development projects in Ireland.
Quality and Standards
The theme of quality and sustainability stands out strongly across the suite of presentations you will hear.
This is as it should be. Public tolerance for poor building quality has been well and truly exhausted.
On the building control side of things, for which I hold ministerial responsibility, we now have a credible regulatory framework that empowers competence and professionalism in the design and construction process and that requires owner/developers, builders and professionals to account for their statutory obligations.
I look forward in the coming months to working with industry, local authorities and all stakeholders to review the arrangements now in place during their first 12 months in operation. It is important that we identify what further steps are necessary to refine and streamline the regulatory process in order to ensure that all our citizens can enjoy the quality built environment they expect and deserve.
The next key ingredient rests in the Government’s commitment to the introduction of statutory registration for builders and contractors. The Construction Industry Register Ireland or CIRI will give consumers the reassurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant builder.
I believe this register will become the foundation stone of quality in the industry and I look forward to seeing it develop into a robust, statutory register.
By way of conclusion I want to thank the impressive line-up of speakers and panellists for their generous contributions without which this conference would not be possible.
No stakeholder, be they Government representative, public servant, industry expert or consumer advocate, has a monopoly on the wisdom or perspective necessary to identify practical solutions to the problems we face or the right to impose their preferred solutions on others. Ultimately, it is only through dialogue and interaction that real and lasting solutions emerge.
That is why events such as today’s conference are so vital and so necessary.
I encourage you all to participate as fully as you can in that spirit so that together we can
- Take on board the lessons of the past and deliver quality housing solutions
- Ensure that quality and sustainability becomes the watchwords in all we do
- Continue to question, to inquire and to develop innovative solutions to what are perennial challenges
Know that in applying this approach in our own work and promoting it within our own sphere of influence we help transform the culture of the entire construction industry towards quality and sustainability.
On that note, I wish you well with what promises to be an enjoyable and stimulating event.