The Government has been told to pay for the refurbishment of privately-owned vacant homes in order to meet the urgent housing need for thousands of arriving Ukrainian refugees.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien told a crisis summit of the construction and property industry that no options are off the table as the Government scrambles to find additional resources to meet demand.
As the Irish Examiner reports, a fund to bring vacant or older buildings up to standard was raised by the construction industry.
Mr O’Brien has asked industry leaders to come back within the next week with concrete proposals which could create housing for refugees as quickly as possible.
As well as the refurbishment fund, the Government will be pushed to: Use the Fair Deal nursing home scheme to release up to 8,000 homes; changes to planning laws to speed up homebuilding and encourage people to pledge the “low-hanging fruit” of holiday homes for refugees.
Irish Home Builders Association (IHBA) director James Benson said labour shortages are affecting construction, and refurbishing existing vacant stock would be less labour intensive than some home-building projects. He also said modular housing could provide “sustainable units” for decades.
He said that while the first phase of the humanitarian response has seen refugees housed in B&Bs and hotels, the next two phases should see the conversion of vacant properties and the building of new homes, and these phases should proceed at the same time.
“We need to look at the use of our existing and vacant stock,” said Mr Benson.
Existing heritage buildings, convents, garda stations, nursing homes. We need to look at a combination of public and private builds that are being unused.”
He said key infrastructure such as water, power, and roads are often the “greatest impediment” to building projects, but that key infrastructure is already in place for existing vacant stock.
On modular housing, he said these units could take six to seven months to complete, and would offer “sustainable units” that would remain in place for up to 60 years.