Housing supply

The ‘new generation’ of construction workers is needed for housing supply

Meeting the demand for skilled workers to increase housing supply to an average of 33,000 homes per year, combined with the renovation of 500,000 homes under the government’s climate action plan by 2030 “is a huge challenge,” said Environment and Climate Minister Eamon Ryan.

But, on the day of the announcement of the results of the Leaving Cert, it must be considered by young people as an opportunity, with guaranteed work over the next 30 years, he underlined.

“These are well-paying, well-regulated jobs,” he said, as they would come with status because “these builders and renovators will be on the front lines of the fight against climate change.”

Speaking to the Irish Times, the minister insisted that increasing supply in line with the government’s housing for all plan published on Thursday, combined with a plan to refurbish 500,000 homes in the coming years, n is not an impossible request.

The targets would nonetheless create strong demand for 55,000 construction workers, Mr Ryan said on Friday.

Some 27,000 skilled workers will be needed for the modernization program alone, a key part of a commitment to cut Irish carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, he confirmed; Irish homes are responsible for a quarter of global energy consumption and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Apprentices

Mr Ryan said the increase in the number of apprentices in the construction industry was already underway, with a total of 4,000 this year – although this figure is due to rise to 10,000 a year. The shortage of construction workers, however, was a problem throughout the Western world due to an aging workforce. “We need a new generation of construction workers.”

As of last week, 12,000 construction workers were still on the government’s Pandemic Unemployment Benefit (PUP). He hoped that these people would return to the area.

The housing plan is strongly underpinned by environmental sustainability, he said, and complements the goals and targets of the national planning framework and the climate plan. A new version of the latter, including commitments on reducing energy and fossil fuel use in homes, is expected later this month.

The housing plan is also in line with compact urban growth policies, which state that “a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development should take place within the existing built-up areas of our cities and towns”.

Resilient

The plan highlights how compact growth contributes to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. Accordingly, it would target a greater proportion of development in settlements of all sizes, through urban infill and brownfield reuse. “Higher densities and shorter travel distances will reduce transport demand, and therefore energy demand, he adds.

“A plan-based approach to housing delivery will ensure greater public participation at the earliest possible stage and is a key principle of environmental sustainability and of assessing the environmental implications of development,” says- he.

This approach will increase “the long-term visibility and certainty of housing development proposals that deliver compact urban growth firmly anchored in established policy, legislation and planning guidance”.

New homes built under the plan must be built to “near zero-energy building” (nZEB) standards. “In addition, Housing for All will also support the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Communications to deliver the renovation of 500,000 homes by 2030 to a BER B2. [rating]“, he specifies.

The department will set up a targeted renovation scheme for approved housing bodies and will enable local authorities to provide low-cost renovation loans to individual homeowners. A roadmap to implement minimum BER standards for private rental accommodation will also be introduced for rental properties from 2025.