For Oral Answer on : 11/05/2023
Question Number(s): 21 Question Reference(s): 22077/23
Department: Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
* To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure; National Development Plan Delivery and Reform if he will provide an update on the provision of rapid build houses by the OPW; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– David Stanton T.D.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 11 May, 2023.
In 2022, the OPW was asked by Government to develop a pilot programme of an initial 500 rapid build homes on behalf of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY). That number was subsequently increased to 700 late last year.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) was asked to assist in identifying sites that might be suitable by seeking information from public authorities on potential sites in their ownership.
The OPW had already begun liaising with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) relating to the possible use of modular housing units to provide durable accommodation solutions. Those discussions considered the potential capacity of the modular manufacturing industry in Ireland to produce a product at scale and to the appropriate standard.
In conjunction with the CIF and the modular manufacturing industry, the OPW developed an exemplar design and specification to ensure Building Regulation compliance. The modular prototype that was designed is a highly energy efficient durable single storey unit (with a useful life of 60 years). The units would be fully fitted out and transported onto sites around the country.
The OPW undertook an accelerated procurement procedure to select a main contractor to carry out site enabling works and arrange for the manufacture, transportation and installation of modular units. A contract with John Sisk & Son was awarded in August 2022. Sisk then engaged with a range of modular manufacturers an established a framework of 5 suppliers.
A number of interrelated activities took place simultaneously relating to:
- Sites selection via the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage;
- Engagement with site owners;
- Finalising the work programme with the main contractor to manage the enabling works on sites, the acquisition of modular units and their transportation and installation; and
- There has also been considerable positive collaboration with utility bodies such as ESB Networks, Irish Water and Open Eir on those aspects of the site development.
Commencement of site works began in November 2022 on the first available sites.
From the outset, the OPW was acutely aware that the most complex part of the process would be the identification of suitable State-owned sites against a backdrop of pressure on housing supply.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) provided information on sites that were identified to it by local authorities and other public bodies. However, while local authorities, in particular, have some sites in their ownership, many of these are earmarked for future housing development and were not readily available for this programme.
Nevertheless, work is already well underway on the first phase of seven sites. So far, locations in Cavan town, Mahon in Cork, Thurles, Sligo, Claremorris, Clonminch and Rathdowney are being developed. The first of the sites at Mahon in Cork will be completed for handover to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) around the end of May, with residents expected to be able to move in from mid-June onwards.
The OPW continues to work with DHLGH and with local authorities, the Housing Agency and other bodies on the next phase of suitable sites, in order to deliver the required 700 units. For its part, the OPW has included 3 of its sites in the first phase of the development of the housing units. Those sites are in Cavan, Thurles and Claremorris and will accommodate up to 118 persons.
It is important to note that the completion timelines for the programme have always been subject to any technical issues arising during construction. There were a number of such issues that arose over the past few months relating to site conditions, remedial works, boundaries, etc. that delayed earlier forecasted dates of completion on sites included in the programme.
In terms of cost information, the project is still ongoing. Until that process is completed, it is not possible to fully specify a final figure or establish the cost per square metre.
From the beginning of the humanitarian crisis, the OPW also provided the relevant Departments with information on its surplus properties to be assessed for potential humanitarian residential use.
To-date, a small number of buildings have been identified as potentially suitable and are currently either being assessed or are in the re-design stage.
From the start of this project, the emphasis has been on delivery of quality homes that will enhance local environments.
Once completed, the developments will be to a high standard and will include permanent infrastructure, high quality public realm, streets, water, waste, roads, pedestrian routes, lighting, landscaping, semi-private front curtilage and small private rear gardens. These homes will provide housing for up to 2,800 individuals in family units on State-owned land.