Social housing projects funded by my Department, like all publicly-funded construction projects, must comply with the Government’s Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF), the objectives of which are to ensure greater cost certainty, better value for money and financial accountability.
While there are nine points of review within the CWMF, my Department has combined these to just four for capital-funded social housing construction projects. The social housing construction schemes progressing through the 4-stage approval process are reviewed at each stage by my Department’s Social Housing Delivery team, including architectural and quantity surveyor advisors. The 4 stages are:
Stage 1 – Capital Appraisal submission to establish the business case;
Stage 2 – Pre-planning submission and cost check;
Stage 3 – Pre-tender approval and cost check;
Stage 4 – Tender approval.
These approvals themselves represent only a small proportion of the time taken in advancing a construction project onto site. The approach that is followed means that local authorities forward design proposals and costings to my Department sequentially, as the local authorities advance the projects through their own planning work. Therefore, projects continue to be advanced while stages are cleared and the approval process does not negatively impact on the overall delivery.
However, it is important that we continuously strive for efficiency in the delivery of social housing. Accordingly, a review was undertaken during 2017 of the procedures for such projects, involving both my Department and the County and City Management Association. This review identified an overall target programme of 59 weeks for progressing a typical social housing construction project from initial capital appraisal submission by the local authority (Stage 1), to construction contract award. Once the construction contract is awarded, the time taken to build and tenant the homes varies depending, in particular, on the size of the development, the site conditions and other construction-related factors.
My Department and local authorities also operate a single-stage approval process for projects up to €2m in value, while rapid build approaches are also increasingly being used which can save time in relation to design, procurement and construction of new social housing.