Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questions (42, 45)

Jan O'Sullivan


42. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homes built under the rapid build programme that were completed in 2017; the areas in which these homes are located; the number that have persons resident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9650/18]

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John Curran


45. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to accelerate the delivery of rapid build homes; the estimated number of rapid build homes that will be completed and occupied by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9689/18]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 45 together.

The Department is working closely with all local authorities on increasing and accelerating the delivery of a range of social housing programmes and supports, including through the use of rapid build methodologies. Under the Department's social housing capital programme, 208 rapid delivery homes were completed in schemes across the greater Dublin area by the end of 2017. Of these, 22 were delivered in 2016. This increased substantially to 186 social homes delivered last year. During 2017, in the Dublin city area, four schemes amounting to 130 homes were completed, of which 38 were in Belcamp, 24 in Coolock, 29 in Cherry Orchard, 29 in Drimnagh and 39 in St. Helena's Drive, Finglas. The remaining 56 homes were delivered in Fingal, of which 20 were in Wellview, Mulhuddart, and 36 in Hansfield, Ongar. The allocation of these homes is a matter for each local authority and I am assured that arrangements are in place that resulted in them being occupied without delay on completion.

An additional 20 rapid delivery schemes, set to yield in excess of 500 social homes, are at various stages of advancement. Many of these are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and I understand seven of them in are in Limerick. Further rapid delivery homes are being added to the construction pipeline regularly. The Minister recently made clear to all local authorities that we want the rapid build approaches to be used to deliver social housing projects. Not only do we want construction to commence on site as quickly as possible, but the quickest method offering the best value for taxpayers must be used to deliver housing. Local authorities have been advised that rapid build approaches should increasingly become the norm for delivering social housing projects. Ultimately, it is likely that we will reach a point where no differentiation will be made between traditional and rapid build approaches to housing construction. It is important that units are being designed that can accommodate both types of construction. Rapid build approaches offer significant gains and we are asking that they be adopted as quickly as possible.

To support delivery, the Office of Government Procurement put in place a framework of rapid delivery contractors in 2017. This framework is available for all local authorities and approved housing bodies to use in the interest of accelerated delivery. In this regard, the Department has organised information seminars for local authorities, as well as visits to rapid delivery projects under construction, factories and other premises. Local authorities and approved housing bodies have also been asked to consider, in particular, schemes which are suitable for early commencement, particularly in terms of their approved planning status.

Updated details on this programme of rapid delivery projects are included in each social housing construction project status report. They can be tracked online as well and I can give details to the Deputy at a later stage if she so wishes.

I share the scepticism of Deputy Durkan with respect to rapid build. It is the greatest misnomer ever in most of these cases. The first 22 went through fairly quickly but the rest seem to be taking forever and are anything but rapid. If buildings are constructed off site, why can they not be put in place more rapidly? Why are they stuck in various stages, as the Minister mentioned in his reply? The Minister of State used the term "drive on" earlier, so why can we not do so and have them completed in a matter of months rather than the length of time they are taking now? It seems to be fairly similar to regular construction as far as I can see. May we see rapid build really being rapid?

The big issue is not necessarily construction as these are, without a doubt, constructed much more quickly after being produced in factories. Getting on sites has been the cause of the delay. We made many changes in the processes, and the Deputy is familiar with those from her time in the Department. There were long delays on many sites across the country for many years going on for three or four years. It has been agreed that there is a timeline and process in place to be on-site with any new project within 59 weeks. The rapid builds can be constructed in a matter of months thereafter. I hope we will see improved results in the rapid build scheme this year and next.

It is not just hope we need.

I am quite confident about it. I have even named the sites in Limerick so I am quite confident the Deputy will see the results of the rapid delivery scheme, which we should have been able to see well before now. We will certainly be able to see it in future. The issue has been getting to site and getting planning, along with other requirements. We have fast-tracked that as much as possible.

Without being unkind, the Minister of State has missed the targets for the rapid build programme by a mile. Rebuilding Ireland is 18 months old. It clearly indicated that by the end of 2016 there would be delivery of 200 units, with a further 800 units in 2017. By the end of last year we would have expected approximately 1,000 units. The action plan status report indicates there were approximately 200 units built in total, so we missed by a mile.

The Minister of State has indicated in reply that various things have been done but the problem is not enough has been done. Looking at the predictions from the action plan status report, there is only indication of another 500 units this year. The delivery that the programme should be making is not coming about. We as ordinary Members of this House do not understand where the real blockages are. We should remember that this was the first action in Rebuilding Ireland and it was aimed specifically at people who are homeless and in hotel accommodation. The Minister of State is wondering why figures are going up. If the Government delivered its own targets, there would be 800 more units for accommodation. The number of people we refer to homeless accommodation would be reduced significantly. The Government is missing the target and failing to explain to us why. It is not making up the time in 2018 lost in the previous 18 months.

The Deputy is not being unkind and he is quite entitled to question the figures. I have already explained that we expect many of our schemes to deliver much more this year, next year and in the years ahead. It has become the default position that rapid build is the best technology to use for speed purposes in some of these sites. We are providing workshops and skills bases for local authorities so they can make this happen and use rapid construction. The difficulty has been in getting on site. We made great changes to the process of getting a project to site after it has been earmarked for a particular greenfield or brownfield site.

Not to be unkind to the Deputy but he should look at the delivery across all the schemes in Rebuilding Ireland. We are well ahead of track in what we want to achieve. We all accept it is still not enough, so although we are happy it is ahead of target, we want the process to become even faster again and to deliver even more. It is important to consider all our schemes and funding mechanisms. If we compare 2017 delivery with estimates and targets, we are approximately 36% over. We are trying to achieve those goals. Without being unkind to the Deputy, he should look at all the figures.

The Government is still 800 units behind the predictions.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.