Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s comments that Ireland has ‘turned a corner’ on house building, have met with a mixed response from those at the frontline of the housing issue in Cork.
The Tánaiste said that 30,000 new homes were built last year, 14,000 more than the previous year, and in January there were more than 2,000 commencements, the highest since records began.
Conor O’Connell of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said there are mixed signals for the housing output for 2023 and 2024. Last year saw a significant increase from 21,000 units to over 29,000 units, a 45% increase in housing output.
However, all the supply determinants, such as zoned land, and planning, are “very much under duress at the moment.” “There are planning logjams,” he said.
There was a 43% decline in planning permissions by the end of Q4 of 2022, which “will be of concern.”
A new first home scheme is yielding results, and 2023 saw the highest level of January housing commencements in over ten years, said Mr O’Connell.
“But there is a very significant problem with the supply of planning permissions into the industry, the amount of zoned and serviced land that is available, and difficulties with apartment funding.
However, supply is not meeting demand in Cork.
“We urgently need to increase the output of housing across Ireland. In Cork city and county, between 2006 and 2022, there was an increase in the population of over 100,000 people, which has placed extreme pressure on the existing housing stock. It’s an area of high population growth.”
Mr O’Connell said the CIF would welcome more Government spending on social housing.
Jude Sherry, anti-dereliction campaigner with Anois in Cork, said Ireland has “turned a corner” but “it’s not a positive corner.” With the eviction ban ending, more people will end up homeless and in extreme stress. Ms Sherry said more houses may be coming on stream, but they're not coming fast enough.
“There have been no measures put in place to deal with the evictions that are coming up,” she said.
There are only 22 houses for rent on Daft.ie in the whole of Cork city.
Recently, Ms Sherry visited a pregnant mother expecting twins, living in the Shandon area of Cork with the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU). “She was living in horrific conditions,” she said.
Speeding up the process of turning around empty council houses would go a long way towards tackling the crisis, said Ms Sherry.
Rory Kelleher, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability with the Cork Chamber of Commerce said the lack of housing supply is the major issue for their members. Cork has a growing economy and population meaning that targets need to be increased.
“We need to be building significantly more this year, to have turned a corner. We need high-density, high-quality apartments in the city centre,” said Mr Kelleher.
Making these affordable at a price point where people can afford them has to be a priority, he said. “Overall housing supply needs to be hugely ramped up, but development in the city centre is really key to Cork being a successful and sustainable city.”
Meanwhile, there has been a “massive backlog” in terms of planning applications to An Bord Pleanála. “There needs to be a step change in resourcing. If they don’t start tackling the backlog, we will be in a situation in six months’ time where there will be thousands of applications outstanding,” said Mr Kelleher.
A spokesperson for the Threshold housing advice centre in Cork, said the increasing number of small landlords exiting the rental market are creating a diminishing supply.
“Threshold calls on the Government to encourage the transfer of private-rented accommodation to the social rental sector with tenants in situ through a relief on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) payable when a landlord sells a rental home with the tenants in situ to the Local Authority,” said the spokesperson.
“The rental sector in Ireland is a gateway into homelessness and the current tax credit of €500 for tenants is unlikely to stem the tide of challenges private renters are facing on a daily basis. The Government’s lack of action to help tenants will clearly result in a requirement for more radical measures to be put in place.
"An acceleration of the Housing For All strategy to ensure the delivery of secure, affordable units of housing to those who desperately need them will be critical in alleviating the current crisis and should be done without delay,” added the spokesperson.
Threshold’s helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm at 1800 454 454, with webchat at www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support.