Cork Chamber: Government needs to 'think differently' to solve housing crisis 

The Chamber also said it is “critical” An Garda Síochána “are resourced to police cities such as Cork in a safe manner and are enabled to increase visual presence on streets to deter and detect crime”.
Cork Chamber: Government needs to 'think differently' to solve housing crisis 

Cork Chamber President Ronan Murray and CEO Conor Healy at the launch of their Pre-Budget Submission. Photography By Gerard McCarthy

THE Government needs to seek international inspiration to tackle Ireland’s housing crisis, Cork Chamber has said.

The business group has come up with a wish-list of an array of proposals in its pre-budget submission, including:

A call to copy an Austrian initiative and set up an urban housing investment fund which would unlock affordable homes and provide a steady return for the State.

The realisation of the city Events Centre venue to boost Cork’s cultural offerings.

A plan to breathe life into businesses struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis by reducing or offering a rebate of up to 50% of employers’ PRSI for an initial 12-month period .

A call to increase the visual presence of An Garda Síochána on the streets to deter and detect crime.

CORK Chamber called on the Government to mandate the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to set up a new Vienna-style urban housing investment fund in its pre-Budget submission.

“The Government needs to think differently on measures that can solve the housing crisis. 

"Mandating ISIF to set up an urban housing investment fund modelled on Vienna’s Wohnbauinitiative (WBI) would unlock affordable housing in cities, and provide a steady return for the State,” Cork Chamber CEO, Conor Healy said.

Vienna’s WIB provides finance, medium-term, low-interest loans, and low-cost building land, to support new housing and apartment construction.

Cork Chamber President Ronan Murray and CEO Conor Healy at the launch of their Pre-Budget Submission. Photography By Gerard McCarthy
Cork Chamber President Ronan Murray and CEO Conor Healy at the launch of their Pre-Budget Submission. Photography By Gerard McCarthy

The Chamber also said it is “critical” An Garda Síochána “are resourced to police cities such as Cork in a safe manner and are enabled to increase visual presence on streets to deter and detect crime”.

Issues with healthcare must also be tackled in the Budget, the Chamber said, saying plans for a new elective hospital in Cork “must be strengthened and progressed with urgency”.

The Chamber also noted arts and culture are “key components of quality of life” and “vital” to the success of Cork city from an economic viewpoint.

“The realisation of the Events Centre venue with the potential to bring 6,000-person capacity and associated infrastructure to enable and facilitate cultural activity is key.” 

It advised investment in longstanding national institutions such as Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery “must continue to be endorsed” and that creative funds and supports “must be strengthened”.

The Chamber’s pre-Budget submission was developed based on feedback from members, with guidance from its Budget Committee. In its latest Economic Trends survey, the Chamber asked members about trading in Q2 of this year, and their priorities for Budget 2023.

In terms of businesses’ priorities for the upcoming Budget, measures to tackle the cost of living were by far the most important, with nearly 70% of companies saying it should be the Government’s top priority for Budget 2023.

Among the recommendations, it suggested a reduction or rebate of up to 50% of employers’ PRSI for an initial 12-month period “to help relieve businesses against the cost of increasing salaries and supporting employees”.

For Cork to “remain globally competitive and fulfil its role nationally as set out in Project Ireland 2040”, the Chamber said, “significant Government investment in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, to regional and international connectivity, housing, health, education, innovation, energy, water, resilience, and climate mitigation must be sustained”.

On housing, the Chamber recommended changes to the Government’s Croí Cónaithe scheme, which aims to bridge the current viability gap between the cost of building apartments and the market sale price.

“The scheme currently ignores the extensive viability gap still present in the Built-to-Rent (BTR) sector which is inhibiting development from progressing beyond the planning stages. 

"A mechanism to underwrite the financing of new developments is needed to ensure the BTR sector delivers a diverse and affordable housing stock for more inclusive growth.

“In addition, the Croí Conaithe scheme that supports Build to Sell sees payment only made on completion, which doesn’t overcome the initial financing barriers,” Mr Healy said.

President of Cork Chamber, Ronan Murray said an increase is needed in the overall capital spend on affordable housing in urban areas. “Cost rental has worked well to date, but future schemes are being jeopardised by inflation and increased costs of financing,” he said. “Income thresholds need to be increased and rents tiered, so that schemes are financeable and affordable, and that anyone earning more, pays more,” he said.

He noted Budget 2023 “comes at a time of increased financial pressure for businesses” and “new measures are required to support businesses in the Budget”. 

“However, it also presents an opportunity to continue to invest in vital medium and long-term capital investment plans and in urban infrastructure and housing.”

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