Rising construction costs and social housing income thresholds

In Dáil Éireann today, Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara called on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to change the income limits for eligibility for social housing to enable working families to apply in circumstances where obtaining a mortgage is beyond their reach.

During Priority Questions to the Minister, Deputy McNamara also highlighted the growing cost of construction materials and its subsequent impact on house building across County Clare.

Speaking on the issue of social housing, Deputy McNamara said the current assessment of housing applicants was overly restrictive.

“As the threshold is currently set in Clare, if two people in a household are working or even if just one person is working and is just a little over the minimum wage, those people are not entitled to go on the social housing list,” he explained. “Effectively, only people in receipt of social welfare can get social housing in Clare because of where the limits are set I have no problem with people in receipt of social welfare getting social housing but it should not be limited to that because it will cause ghettoisation of social housing, which nobody thinks is a good thing, and there is a disincentive to work, especially when it is low-paid work.”

“We need to look at those income thresholds for the sake of society and housing in Clare, to even get back to where we were in the 1980s,” Deputy McNamara informed the Dáil.

Meanwhile, Deputy McNamara also asked if the Department has consulted the construction sector regarding the growing impact on housing construction on the shortage and inflating cost of timber.

“House building is becoming increasingly expensive. There is huge material inflation, especially, but not just, in timber. This affects one-off builds, but it also affects the capacity of local authorities to deliver houses,” stated Deputy McNamara.

He added, “Small one-off builders and self-builders are important to the supply of housing in Ireland, particularly in rural areas. Accessing materials is increasingly difficult as the supply is drying up. A simple length of 4″ X 2″ was €8 last year and is now €13. One of the main builder’s suppliers in Clare is no longer stocking timber. Builders will not give quotes of more than a month’s duration because of inflation in the cost of supplies. I refer not just to timber, but to materials generally?”

“There is a lot of timber growing in Ireland and much of that is past the point of maturity. Many landowners across Clare are looking for felling licences. There is chaos in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, particularly in its forestry section. I would ask the Minister of State to speak with Senator Hackett, who is the Minister of State with responsibility for this, and tell her to get things moving,” stated Deputy McNamara.

Responding to Deputy McNamara about the rising cost of building materials, Minister O’Brien said, “There have been material increases in timber, plastics and metals, some of it Covid-related and some of it Suez-related and supply chain-related. This is being monitored by the Department’s market surveillance unit. The increases we are seeing could be temporary, but we are monitoring the situation. The Deputy asked if this has an effect on delivery. There is no question that it does.”