Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Development Contributions

1:00 pm

Photo of John CumminsJohn Cummins (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Acting Chairman. We look forward to good coverage of today's Seanad Commencement matters in the local newspapers.

I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, who is attending the EU housing ministers' summit in Brussels. I am calling for an extension of the waiver that has existed for the past ten months regarding section 48 development contributions and the refunding of connection charges that apply to water and wastewater connections as levied by Irish Water for new homes. As the Minister of State will know, these measures were introduced under the Housing for All action plan to incentivise an increase in the housing supply and help reduce construction costs for those in the sector. The measures were time limited when they were announced and they applied to developments that commenced on site between 25 April of last year and 24 April of this year and that will be completed before 31 December 2025. These measures were warmly welcomed by the sector, which has been grappling with a high-interest rate environment, increased costs of construction and inflation but, as we approach the end of that 12-month period, there is an element of uncertainty as to whether they will be extended.

I am making the case for extending them for a further year on the basis they are having the impact we in the Government parties had wished for. Data shows that commencements were up 21% in 2023 to more than 32,800 housing units, which will obviously translate into completion figures this year and next. What is more, the data for the past three months is even more encouraging and shows an even greater ramp-up in the sector, at 3,357 units commenced in January, 3,167 in December and 3,087 in November, bringing the average over the past three months to 3,204. If we extrapolate that over a 12-month period, it equates to 38,444 housing units, assuming we can maintain that momentum. This measure has increased the number of commencements and I believe that if we continue that for a further 12 months, that trajectory will continue to go in the right direction, which is what we all want to see. That is despite it not being lost on anyone in the Government that the Opposition opposed these measures when they were introduced last year. They are working, however, and thankfully, we did not listen to the Opposition when it was saying they should not be introduced. In addition to extending the waivers, there is also a strong case for including formerly vacant and derelict properties, particularly those that require a change of use. I was successful in having measures introduced in 2022 to include vacant former pubs in the exemption from the requirement to apply for planning permission and that has resulted in many such properties being brought back into use. However, for the purposes of water and wastewater connections, they are treated as if they were new developments, which means, for example, that a former pub with one water and one wastewater connection that has been converted into eight units is levied for seven water and wastewater connection charges. That has an impact on viability. If this measure is extended, which it should be, it should also include those properties because there are viability issues in bringing them back into use.


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